“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” ~Ephesians 4:16
Since I began my work at Discipleship Ministries (July 1st, 2014), I have been asking the following questions:
- What is Intergenerational Ministry?
- Why should we do it?
These questions were formed not only by my job description, but also by my experience with children, youth, and adults in many diverse church congregations. My experiences have revealed to me the joy, the wisdom, and the gifts that emerge when the entire Body of Christ is gathered together.
As I began working with my questions around the call and need for Intergenerational Ministry, I sat down and asked Google. It surprised me how many hits Google returned when I searched for:
- What is intergenerational ministry (441,000 hits)
- Intergenerational ministries definition (332,000 hits)
- Intergenerational ministries Methodist (69,800 hits)
“Wow!” I thought. “I do have my work cut out for me.”
The few books available on IG ministry were not much help either as they too offer different perspectives, understandings, and definitions. There were so many “right” answers to my two questions.
Then I was introduced to the work of Simon Sinex and his call to Start With Why. In response to my learning, I changed my question: Why intergenerational ministries?
I discovered that my answer to the why is: Intergenerational Ministry is an intrinsic part of our identity and calling. IG ministry reflects how God calls us to show up in the world by revealing who God created us to be and what God calls to do.
Time and time again, Scripture reminds us of our identity (who God created us to be) and our call (what God calls us to do). In Genesis we learn that we are created very good and we hear that we have responsibilities and work to do. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, our identity and call is affirmed, modeled, and proclaimed as we hear Christ’s call to “make disciples of all nations” and to remember that we do not do it alone- “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
One Body… Many Gifts
The book of Ephesians teaches that God created each person with specific and diverse gifts. We are the body of Christ, equipped and called to follow Christ’s example. When each part of the body is working properly the body grows and builds “itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16). We are strengthened in our ministry when all people use their gifts and participate in God’s work for the transformation of the world.
As United Methodists our “why” to ministry is summarized in our mission statement:
The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs. (Book of Discipline, Paragraph 120)
This is a universal call. The Book of Discipline does not say all persons 35 and older, or people of like minds, backgrounds, or developmental levels. This is an intergenerational mission statement -- one that applies to the entire church.
The rationale for this mission statement is found in paragraph 121:
God’s grace is active everywhere, at all times, carrying out this purpose as revealed in the Bible…In order to truly be alive, we embrace Jesus’ mandate to love God and to love our neighbor and to make disciples of all peoples.
“God’s grace is active“ in all people- young, old, and somewhere in between. Every person is equipped and called. God breathed life into us and calls us to live- loving God and neighbor; making disciples of all peoples.
Why Intergenerational Ministry? Because- it reflects who we are and what we are called to do. God creates, calls, and equips all people for work in the Kingdom. This is what it means to be alive.
- What gifts God has given you to help strengthen the body of Christ and transform the world?
- Where you see intergenerational ministry happening in your context?
- Who feels welcome in your community?
- What challenges intergenerational ministry reveals?
- What joys intergenerational ministry brings?
This week take time to: Start a listening campaign
Pay Attention: Watch and take notes of where you see people of all generations gathering together.
- Wonder: Are these gatherings forced or are they naturally occurring in your community?
- Listen: Take time to wonder with your community. Ask them to share their answers to the wondering questions provided above
- Give Thanks: Spend time in prayer with your family/friends/community, giving thanks for the many gifts in your community. Ask God to help you all see how those gifts can be used to strengthen the body of Christ for the transformation of the world.
- Respond: Invite people to join you in a listening and visioning campaign where you will discern how God is calling your entire community into faithful ministry
This article originally appeared on the Intergenerational Ministry Blog.