“Drinking from the fire hose” doesn’t begin to describe the experience I had at InterGenerate June 25-27 at Lipscomb University in Nashville. InterGenerate 2017 was an inaugural conference gathering 150 academics, practitioners, and others excited about the impact of intergenerational relationships on today’s church and wider community. It was more like summer camp where I couldn’t wait to get up each morning, had trouble falling asleep each night though fully exhausted, and then was sad to leave. But I left with all these new, wonderful friends and inspired to carry on!
Jam-packed, overflow days of workshops, panel discussions, keynote addresses, paper presentations, meals, cheese and chat conversations, Pecha Kucha talks, sacred space to unwind, and fun. Each presenter may have been preaching to the choir but this was a choir thirsty to learn and do more. Bring on the fire hose!
It was a blast for GenOn to lead a LOGOS-style Western themed lunch complete with table decorations, a sung blessing, a thanks to our cooks and a sit-down square dance.
Kudos to Holly Allen (Lipscomb University) and her InterGenerate all-star task force (Shirley Carlson (GenOn Ministries), Melissa Cooper (LECFamily), Karen de Boer (Faith Formation Ministries), Ron de Vries (Faith Formation Ministries), Darwin Glassford (Calvin Theological Seminary), Suzie Lane (GenOn Ministries), Kris Miller (Institute for Christian Spirituality), John Roberto (Lifelong Faith Associates), Linda Staats (Homegrown Faith), and Olivia Updegrove (Disciples of Christ)) for this thoughtful and inspiring conference. GenOn Ministries was pleased to be a co-sponsor along with Lipscomb University and was completely blessed by the experience.
An attempt to summarize the sessions that I experienced…
Lynn Barger Elliott (keynoter) explored generational and community theory and said that as the church, we should be asking, “How do we create community with all these differences in generations?”
Cory Seibel offered up the acronym COHERE to strengthen intergenerational stickiness (Connect, Organize, Harmonize, Empathize, Recognize, Exchange). Like the ingredients in baking a cake, each is good alone but better mixed together and when we rely on the Holy Spirit.
In the Pecha Kucha talks (20 slides, 20 seconds each), Amy Kippen shared ways to validate, challenge and encourage parents (especially dads), every week at church and every night at home. Melissa Cooper wondered if church bulletins shouldn’t be less like a menu in a restaurant and more like invitations for all to participate, offering church as a whole. Jerusalem Greer implored us to remember to gather, listen, do, and go with everything in the church. Jim Merhaut reminded us that caring comes first. Without it, nothing else works. Aqueelah Ligonde shared stories of Friday night LOGOS and the difference of inclusiveness of the wider community. Jason Santos laid out how peer oriented ministry is destroying the church and the need for an intergenerational approach to building communal identity in childhood.
I didn’t attend enough workshops or enough paper presentations because of my own set-up needs, but here’s a few gems gleaned from the ones I did attend:
In the “Making Space for Faith Storytelling” workshop Karen de Boer reminded us that stories are a gift and we need to treat them that way—even the ordinary stories. We explored ideas for using intergenerational storytelling in our own churches.
Joe Azzopardi shared the early results of his continuing research on well-being in intergenerational congregations. His hypothesis is that the level of well-being is higher than in non-intergenerational communities. My favorite quote of the conference came from Joe: “Growth without love produces pride.”
Holly Allen explored walking with emerging adults on their spiritual journeys and wondered how we can create good places for emerging adults to connect for an abundant life in Christ. How can we make a compelling case for a life in Christ? We’re missing the twenty-somethings. They’re not missing us (yet).
Corey Seibel discussed transitioning the church from multi-generational to inter-generational and all the challenges that the change brings. We’re like the Israelites going to the Promised Land—we’re being called to a place that we really don’t know yet.
Other workshops and papers led by GenOn people:
Tori Smit (GenOn Training Leader): What to do When Kids are Few
Liz Perraud (GenOn staff): LOGOS: Arena for Practicing the Art of Intergenerational Christian Relationships
Aqueelah Ligonde (GenOn board): Intergenerational Leadership for Everyone
Suzie Lane (GenOn staff): Discovering Scriptures Together: Intergenerational Bible Study
John Roberto, Melissa Cooper, Lynn Elliott, Cory Seibel were a closing panel offering some final observations and questions.
- A hope that we can stop using “intergenerational” as an adjective for a church because it’s what the church has become.
- A need to invite all generations to lean into this conversation.
- A recognition that intergenerational is a continuum and everyone is on it somewhere.
- What is your next best step? Keep imagining it and be intentional.
- How can you infuse new enthusiasm into what you’re doing now?
- How can you connect people a little better?
- Do you need to create something brand new?
Overall themes heard by these panelists:
VALUE: the way everyone and every generation wants to be valued
CREATIVITY: qualitative conversation rather than quantitative
COMMUNITY: broadening the perspective
ABUNDANCE: richly blessed by God to support and encourage each other
People came from 25 states in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa and represented a broad range of Christian traditions (Anglican, Catholic, Church of Christ, Disciple of Christ, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, Seventh Day Adventist, the Uniting Church of Australia and several community churches). Early plans are already being discussed for 2019. Check out the InterGenerate website and Facebook page to keep up with posted recordings and further information.