Christian Educator and Author
In each edition of GenOn Connect, we will ask someone the same two questions about intergenerational ministry: “What keeps you up at night?” and “What gets you up in the morning?”
What keeps you up at night?
I am fearful that the Christian faith is not being passed down to future generations. We know the statistics of the “spiritual but not religious” growth in the United States and how many of our youth and young adults (and I would say parents also) have a belief system that has been called “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a melting pot of beliefs that boils down to we should live our lives as good people, feel good, and keep God at arm’s length (Kenda Creasy Dean, in Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, 2010).
In American society we tend to separate people by ages for education and employment. For the past several generations, we have done this in our churches also, following a school model of “graded” classrooms in which the teacher passes on knowledge to the student. I believe this model has contributed to the loss of intergenerational connectivity and the sharing of belief systems embedded in the life experiences of older generations. I see parents bringing their children to church with the hopes they will grow to be caring individuals with the understanding that we should help one another and respect others. They, too, are seeking answers to their faith questions as well as guidance to answer their children’s questions. I believe for the most part, our churches do a poor job of connecting the dots in supporting a connection between faith at home with coming to church on Sunday (if they even come anymore).
What gets you up in the morning?
We (the Church) have all that we need to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Each day provides an opportunity to build upon our faith in word and action. The time is ripe; people are spiritually hungry. My vocation offers me a “national” audience through the projects I work on to help formation leaders help make those connections and break out of old models, no longer assuming those who walk through the church door already understand our Salvation story. While I don’t have all the answers, I can promote best practices – such as the importance of all ages learning together in experiential ways and the use of mentors with confirmands. Recently, my Episcopal parish has been holding intergenerational events on a seasonal basis. In September 2018, we held an event to explore Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Way of Love initiative. With a mix of Godly Play, table conversation, song, and the sharing of stories, four generations were present. We held an Advent event, including the making of Advent wreaths. Most recently we gathered for an intergenerational, experiential Taizé event. Each gathering has concluded with all sharing a meal together. We are energized and fed both spiritually and physically as we meet one another in new ways. What gets me up in the morning is the possibility of planting seeds and sparking the imagination of formation leaders to think anew about how we can grow faith in all generations.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a Christian educator, editor, and author with 35+ years of experience in Christian formation on the local, judicatory, and church-wide level. Known for her knowledge of published curricula across the church, she has written or edited numerous books, including Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People and the six volume Faithful Celebration series that offers seasonal and secular intergenerational ideas for church, school, or home. A graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and lifelong Episcopalian, you can follow her at www.rowsofsharon.com.
Other GenOn Connect articles: May-June 2019