February 15th marked my one-year anniversary as a Director of Cross-Generational ministry. 2016, and January/February of 2017, was a year of observation, experimentation, and puzzle solving. It’s been incredibly rewarding to view what Good Shepherd already does well here, to try new things with a very willing congregation, and to figure out how all the pieces will eventually (hopefully maybe?) fit together. This time has helped me define what my role will actually look like moving forward (today it’s “like a director of faith formation with a strong focus on intergenerational relationships) as well as what Good Shepherd could look like as a congregation that embraces an intentional cross-generational ministry model. I’m still, and will always be, tweaking language as well as my understanding of the ministry. As of March 8th 2017, with a year under my belt, my interpretation of cross-generational ministry at Good Shepherd looks like two things…
A Cross-Generational Faith Formation Plan
According to Vibrant Faith Ministries, “faith is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal trusted relationships – often in our own homes.” The goal of a cross-generational faith formation plan is to facilitate the building of Christ-centered relationships both in every home and among the many caring adults and youth in our congregation. This does not happen organically. In order to do it, a strategy is needed. Our current plan for cross-generational faith formation consists of four elements.
- Seasons of the Christian Life Developmental Milestone Blessing Events
- At-Home Milestone Blessings of the Seasons of Our Lives and Relationships
- Quarterly Seasons of the Year Intergenerational Events
- Seasons of the Church Year Family Faith Formation Events
I’ll flesh each of the four out individually in future blogs but I will say that all will have two things in common; A) They will be adapted from blessings out of one of my favorite books, For Everything A Season by the Nilsen family and B) They will all be built around Vibrant Faith’s “Four Keys of Faith Formation” (Caring conversation, Devotion, Rituals and Tradition, and Service), a framework I hope other ministries end up adopting.
While will be developing new programs and resources for this plan, many of our existing events fit very nicely into this plan – we just have to name ’em and claim ’em. For example, our annual Advent Event is a Family Faith Formation Event (with take-home elements to encourage at-home faith practices during Advent) while First Communion and Confirmation fall under Developmental Milestone Blessing Events. And for those unpredictable life milestones that can happen at any time, at any age like the blessing of a new home or pet, we will develop take-home resources to be available for families to grab when the need arises. These events and resources will shift and grow through the years according to the needs and participation of the congregation.
How can we integrate the vibrancy of multiple generations into existing ministries? This is one with which we all can get creative and have fun. The three existing ministries I like to start with are worship, missions, and education. The questions I am always asking around these three are…
- How can we better welcome young children, as well as adults, to worship together?
- How can we appreciate young children as valued ministry partners and not just cute, applause-worthy performers?
- How and where can we introduce 5+ caring adults into the lives our young people?
- How and where can young people serve, and serve alongside, adults?
- How can we make confirmation feel less like a graduation from the church and raise our expectations of all adult members of the congregation?
- How can we awaken and foster the gifts and passions of all people?
Some of these questions have been answered in the past year. Many were answered before my arrival a year ago. As we continue to answer these questions at Good Shepherd, I’ll share our “wins” in future posts. Please share your ideas and how you’re answering these questions in your contexts in the comments below.
As of today, this is what I believe cross-generational ministry looks like at Good Shepherd. Sometimes it will look like programs. It will always looks like people. It won’t look like getting rid of all age-specific ministries. It will look like more young people with faith that “sticks” into adulthood as well as more adults with childlike faith who know the names and stories of young people. It will look like the image of God, which is uniquely present in each and every one of us. Come, take a peek.