What is an intergenerational church?
Written by Rev Lindsay Cullen, Assembly National Consultant
One of the Assembly Strategic directions is encouraging and enabling an Intergenerational Church. The longer description says, 'Welcome, equip and hold together the different generations, in the life, ministry, decision making and leadership of the church.' Many churches in the UCA are either exploring or practising intergenerational worship in a variety of ways, but we are called to much more than this.
The future of our church depends on our ability not only to worship intergenerationally, but to enable all generations within the Church to engage in decision-making, to offer leadership and to shape missional activities.
This is a challenging task for many congregations and faith communities, which will require us to ask difficult questions, to experiment and be willing to fail, and for many of us who are older, it will involve choosing to relinquish control.
What are some of the ways in which your congregation, presbytery or synod are wrestling with this issue?
You might be interested in some of the discussions, like the one below, taking place in our Circles of Interest Facebook groups at the moment.
"What steps would you take to bring about generational change in the life of a congregation (or more specifically a church council) when you have older people who have faithfully served for decades but don't know how to step back and let go, and younger people who are reluctant to step up and take on leadership responsibility because their lives are so busy?"
Some of the responses:
"I think the way in which church councils (typically) do business make it hard for younger folks to join. The monthly meeting model that moves slowly - often spending long time on small administrational matters and short time on matters of vision and mission - is a hard sell."
"Letting go may not be the appropriate terminology. What else can people do? How will they be valued in the community? Can they mentor? Older people need the stimulation and social interaction too."
"I wonder what it would be like to look at this as a stewardship issue? When one person says no to a role it creates space for someone else to say yes."
"My thought would be thinking about how to both decentralise the meetings - so more business can happen online or in smaller sub-groups, focus on amplifying/centring the more creative conversations, and look to removing practical impediments (e.g. hosting meeting after worship when people are already there and others could stick around to look after kids)."
"I wonder whether a first step might be involving some of the new potential members in planning days or similar with the existing council. That is, places where ideas can be shared and the process used ensures space for all to contribute. Thinking seniors will get to discover that there are thoughtful, faithful younger members. Plus in some cases one-on-one pastoral conversations asking current members what their hopes and dreams are for the next stage and who they discern might be able to contribute to that. Also asking what legacy do they want to leave."
"Moving online helps and changing the time also. Maybe the older dedicated members step into a mentor/wisdom/advisor role and younger people are grouped or paired so they can share responsibility and build each other up? As an example, a church would conduct their worship team meeting early in the morning over breakfast on Saturday and it ended at 9 or 9.30 am. It was fantastic!"
"Your question reminds me of a story I heard from a (then) new minister. He wanted to have a piece of furniture over the other side of the building, so just moved it. Sunday morning it was back again… so he moved it… only to find it back again. In the end, he got the piece of furniture where he wanted it by moving it a few centimetres each week. By the end, people were convinced it had always been in the new space. What has this to do with generational change? I often start by breaking things down into small, achievable portions. Gradually, the old guard are prepared to let go of another and another thing, and the new people have the confidence to try more and more. The biggest trick is to get the balance right so you neither have people pulling back from change nor the new people getting frustrated with the lack of progress."