Bridging the generation gap in our church has always been a goal of mine. I’m a proponent of inter-generational youth ministry. If you don’t know what that is, then go here and read this book. Many churches are going to the model of separation and segregation of age groups so much that the generations never interact with each other. Do I see value in age-segregated ministries? Absolutely. Hello, I’m a youth pastor! But there is real value in generations coming together, getting to know each other, and truly becoming ONE church. But it just does not happen over night. You need to be intentional. Sure, there are select few older generation that will take time to get to know younger generations. But, for many, you must have a “Field of Dreams” model of ministry – if you build it they will come.
How does this happen? Here are few ideas:
Serve Them. Every year, our teen ministry hosts a lunch for the senior citizens. The sky is the limit for the theme of the lunch, and thankfully I have very creative and talented youth lady leaders (because I could only host a grilled cheese or hot dog lunch). We have done Valentine’s Day lunches, Brunches, Tour of Italy…the themes are endless. And so is the value of teens serving the older generation. The teens dress up, take the seniors to their seats, take their orders, and serve them lunch. After everyone is served, the teens then find seats next to them and have genuine conversation. Sometimes, the conversation is guided, other times it is just natural. Another idea: Form a team of teens and adults to serve the elderly through the year – yard work, general house issues, etc.
Have Fun Together. Typically, either following lunch or another time during the year, we will have an informal time of generations coming together. I’ve hosted a “Man Day” which includes a Bible study, hearty breakfast, and man games like “Name That Tool” and “Power Drill Relay. Other ideas include: speed dating & board game night.
Serve Together. Our youth group has a service project every month, and we often invite adult small groups to participate with us. This is a great way to bring generations together, by serving together. Often, they see how teens can be hard-working, caring, and approachable. It breaks down walls when you are serving Christ together.
Worship Together. Please do not make the mistake of never allowing generations to worship together. I’m a proponent of children’s and youth ministries as much as the next guy, but it is important that the generations have opportunities to worship and hear God’s Word together over the course of the year. Maybe consider trimming down the age of children’s church, save holidays for all-church gatherings, and do not host a youth service during main worship times.
Pray for One Another. Before I arrived at my current church, they already had this wonderful practice in place. The senior citizen group had a prayer sign up list of all the teens and college/young adults. What better way to bring generations together than to pray for them. Our teens often pray for our seniors as well.
Invite Them to Youth Group. Last but not least, invite them to your youth group! Sure, many youth groups have a parent night which is a great idea. But let’s take it a step further and invite the senior citizen group to your youth group. A friend of mine in ministry gave me this idea, and we tried it yesterday. Judging by the picture below, how do you think it went? Seeing the elder generation, singing, playing games, and praying with the younger generation…it was incredible.
Sure, we are not there yet. But we are intentionally trying to bridge the generations together. Praying, serving, having fun, and worshiping together as ONE church.