I was sitting in a restaurant, over 20 years ago, on a date with my hubby, when a group of about a dozen people came in and sat on the tables opposite us. I was fascinated by them, as they were such a mixed bunch – different nationalities, cultures and ages, all having a really great time together. I wondered what common interest had brought this disparate group together and I said to my husband, “I bet they’re Christians!” And they were. There is something powerfully distinct about togetherness. Diversity in unity. I was reminded of this restaurant scene recently when considering the question, “What does a church community look like that genuinely loves and appreciates the uniqueness and contribution of all the different generations within it? We can appreciate this diversity in unity when the apostle Paul speaks of the church as a body – with each member playing a unique role and every part being needed for us to function properly. But this analogy has limitations for an intergenerational perspective – the parts of my body are a similar age! I think the best example of what it looks like to be a church that values and loves across the generations is family – the most natural multi-generational community on earth! We all know there’s no such thing as a perfect family, but let’s just imagine for a minute how an ideal family might function:
They spend time together – whether it’s doing boring stuff, fun activities or just being together.
Everyone learns from each other – a child learning to share; being taught by your granny how to knit; children showing grandparents how to use the latest digital devices.
They are generous with one another – they love to give. Whether it is a child drawing a picture for an adult family member, or an adult giving a more expensive gift.
I am sure there is much more that could be added to that list. That is what a community that loves and honours across the generations looks like. And the church is a family! How can each of us encourage this sort of expression of family in the life of the church?
Get involved in a ministry amongst a different age group.
Become part of a small group/life group/home group that has people of different ages in it.
If your church has different services, go along to the one that is not the usual magnet for your age group.
Invite people over for a meal from a different generation.
When you’re at church events don’t just gravitate to the people you would normally hang out with. Young people – go and chat to some seniors. Find out about their lives. And if you’re in the older age group – go and hang out with the youth!
I heard of a church recently who intentionally partner the young people with an older member of their congregation. When my daughter joined a new church at university she was partnered with an older lady as a mentor and it has been a tremendous blessing to her.
We need each other. Our church family needs the richness that all the different age groups bring.
Intergenerational Activity in Care Homes
There is something wonderful about watching the generations connect, and it's particularly special when this happens in care home settings where many older people don't have the same opportunities to connect with children as they used to. There are so many ways this can happen, from running a mother and toddler group in a care home, or a nursery or school visiting, through to specific intergenerational projects that involve art, crafts, gardening or drama. There are a number of resources available on the internet to guide and inform intergenerational activities and we have provided links to some of them below: