Executive Director, GenOn Ministries
Part 4 of a 4 Part Series: GenOn Ministries defines intergenerational ministry as nurturing Christ-centered community by bringing together two or more generations in planned and purposeful settings, where all are mutually invested.
Intergenerational ministry is more than faith formation curriculum. It is about infusing the whole church with an ethos—the characteristic spirit of the community guided by its beliefs or ideas. Eventually, this intergenerational spirit impacts everyone and everything.
Where to begin? We have identified four ministry areas for the church: worship, study, service, and fellowship. In Part 1, I highlighted the ministry area of worship, specifically worship leadership. In Part 2, I lifted the ministry area of study. Part 3 was about fellowship. Our next ministry area to focus on is service. The goal is for the congregation to bring generations together to serve others in the greater community outside the church.
The Christian faith is, at its heart, missionary. Jesus modeled servant leadership, which we are called to emulate. When we practice serving others, we participate in God’s involvement in and with the world, putting the concept of loving others into a practical context.
When generations serve alongside one another, they build relationships and learn that no one is too young or too old to “love thy neighbor.” Involving all ages in the church in mission, together, helps all contribute to serving others and grows Christ-centered community. Seek opportunities where relationships can be formed, bringing greatest change for both the community and the congregation.
My favorite intergenerational service project is a food packing event. And events they are! Stations are set up around the room where teams of all ages huddle to pour, measure, weigh, or seal. “Runners!” are called for to carry loaded bags of dried vegetables, rice, soy protein, vitamins and minerals to the next station. A gong is sounded when certain thresholds are reached. Everyone contributes their part for the greater good of providing food for hungry people. Mutual investment by young and old, mobile and stationary. A true team approach to mission work.
Based on our definition of intergenerational ministry, what could you modify that you’re already doing in service with your congregation to include and engage more generations?
Some ideas to get you started
- Explore different models of mission (donate goods or money, mobilize volunteers, partner with other organizations, advocate around public policy).
- Assisted living facility partnership for games or singing
- Thank you cards to local police, fire fighters, hospital personnel
- Care kits for those without homes
- Birthday bags for a food shelter
- Stream or park clean up
- Home repairs, painting, or raking
- Community garden
- Fund-raising event for local cause
- School supplies collection
- Tutoring or mentoring
- Toys, food, and supplies collection for animal shelter
To consider when planning
- Explore community needs by first engaging in a listening process.
- Focus on partnerships in the community.
- Make the connection between faith and service for participants.
- Intentionally mix or group multiple generations at gatherings.
- Consider simple and focused ideas.
- Add service components to established groups or programs in the church.
- Make current mission projects and trips more intentionally intergenerational.
- Build on gifts of the people (of all ages) in your congregation.
- Determine a good match for your congregation’s capacity or partner with another church.
- Choose a project that is good for both your community and your church.
GenOn’s recommended resource for service
Joy F. Skjegstad’s 7 Creative Models for Community Ministry
Consider our Intergenerational Ministry Starter Bundle or joining a GenOn Guided Growth Group (designed for smaller churches).
Also from June 2022 IG Mix
Sign up for the IG Mix newsletter.