Genuine Intergenerational Relationships: Start with a Name

Posted by Tracey Daniels at

Liz Perraud

Liz Perraud
Executive Director
GenOn Ministries




My husband and I walk our oldest grandchild to school most mornings. We live about a half-mile from the elementary school, and it takes about 12 minutes to get there (we’ve timed it). Longer if you pause to inspect caterpillars, Halloween decorations, or bright green cars. Shorter if you run to catch up with Grandpa. As we approach the school, there’s a crossing guard to help us get safely across a busy street. The first week of school, the guard asked our granddaughter her name, and she happily shared it. Every day since then, Miss Cora (we asked her, too) calls this kindergartener by name as she smiles and holds up her stop sign to help us cross. A beacon for a welcoming community. Literally.  

How might a simple thing like learning people’s names—and then using those names—make a difference for deepening relationships in our church communities? GenOn Ministries' founder, Dr. Dale Milligan, used to share the story of what made the church eventually a welcoming place for him. A new pastor called him by his name -- his “real” name, Dale -- not “that fourth Milligan boy” (too bad about him and his behavior) and made that boy his friend and changed everything. That emphasis on genuine intergenerational relationships has rippled through our organization and the congregations we serve for nearly 60 years.

Where can you be intentional about genuine intergenerational relationships this fall? Choose where to start in your congregation—with study, worship, service, or fellowship. Our Intergenerational Ministry Snapshot is a helpful free tool to use to explore the possibilities (and part of our Six-Step Path to becoming intentionally intergenerational). Also, join us for an online round table conversation about faith formation in the home (another intergenerational setting) and what we found when we spoke with some focus groups recently on the topic -- on October 20, 1:00-2:00 pm EDT. Sign up here to receive access information to join the free round table.

Perhaps the fall is a good time to try out a simple gathering to give your folks a taste of intergenerational community while your leaders dive deeper for long-term implementation. God’s World in Community series is a great resource for stand-alone events, indoors or outdoors. Use Creation Care or Tell Your Story now or look ahead to Advent. Samples of all are available here.

Now I’m off to write an email to the school principal to let her know what a wonderful crossing guard they have!  

Also from the October 2022 IG Mix

Two Questions: Robert J. Egli

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  • Hi! I love this post and think it is spot on. I have always been bad at remembering names, but make it a point to call my students at church by their name anytime I see them. Reading this, I am wondering how this topic can be broadened to become more relevant to the intergenerational relationships seen in churches today? Perhaps there is also a nugget of wisdom here for the importance of calling someone by preferred pronouns. While this is a controversial topic, I do think that it is relevant in our society today and has a similar effect of welcoming and affirming someone as beloved by God. Just a thought, perhaps even worthy of pondering.

    Austin on

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