One of the things I’ve learned during the course of this past year is that intergenerational activities are not just a nice thing to do; they are crucial to our churches. As I learned from Elizabeth Drescher’s work with the Nones, our segregation of age groups in churches “limits the durability of formation over time, across demographic sectors of the church.”
About a year ago, I wrote 6 ideas for an engaging kick-off Sunday, and it was good as far as it went. But I read it now and see that age-group segregation mindset. The “engaging” part referred to engaging the youth, with a smattering of intergenerational ideas. So this year I’m pondering ideas for an engaging kick-off Sunday for everyone.
1. Name tags for everyone. This is pretty basic, but make sure that everyone gets a name tag. One thing that was hard for me was not knowing the names of the kids of the parish – and not having an easy way to learn them. Make it easier for clergy and adults to interact with children by providing even your youngest members with name tags.
2. Make sure your volunteers involve people of different ages. One of the things that drives me crazy is when we designate youth as “the ones who serve at table” – or other work of that type. If you have a team setting up tables and chairs, make sure it involves people of all ages, not just “the youth.”
3. Have activities that involve intergenerational teams. Last year, I suggested a church scavenger hunt for all ages. I’d take that one step further and encourage you to match people of different ages (from different families!) to work together for the scavenger hunt.
4. Tell stories. Everyone has stories to tell. If you have a theme for the year, invite people of all ages to share a story on that theme with you, or with each other. Use the stories as the basis for the sermon either that day or in the weeks to come.
5. Encourage families to think through their spiritual commitments for the year together. Instead of simply having parents register their children for Sunday School, why not prepare material that allows a whole family to discern together how they may grow in faith both individually and as a family. Make sure youth and children have a say in what they want to learn – and in what the adults in their life might do.
6. Look for the gaps. If you have tables set up with different ministries, look for the ones that are segregated by age. What can you do during the coming year to integrate the ages in your congregation, so that youth and adults can learn from one another and hold one another accountable in Christian formation?
We do not graduate from a life of faith. How can we make our congregations places of companionship in formation for everyone? Our faith communities are one of the few places that remain where people of all ages congregate. Literally. Let’s do our best to hold on to the blessing that that gives us.