Intergenerational Ministry: How Do We Know?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Liz Perraud

I’m a big fan of relationships between and among generations. Especially in the church. I’m convinced these relationships are good for faith deepening, for serving others, and for all around healthy living. Likely it’s the way God intended for us to live (see Hebrews, Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Luke, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Colossians, etc.). I imagine heaven is not a “siloed” experience in any way, shape or form. Here are articles from Holly Allen, John Roberto, Kara Powell, Search Institute and others about the importance of these relationships.

genon blogBut how do we know if a church is “intergenerational?” How can we tell that healthy cross-generational relationships exist and that we don’t just have multiple generations in the same building or even in the same room at the same time? If we believe these relationships are important, how are we intentional about growing and deepening them?

GenOn Ministries (our name made up from the word “generations”) has a tool that helps church leaders assess their current situation and vision how to go wider and deeper in bringing generations into relationship with one another—and so with God. We offer it at no cost in hopes that many churches will hold conversations about the transformation that happens when generations learn and grow together, and then plan to do so more effectively.

The Visioning Tool for Intergenerational Ministry has three sections with 19 factors representing the tangible characteristics that underlie a church’s ability to consistently build disciples through these relationships. Each factor is explained with sub statements and each section offers discussion questions and instructions for processing and then for planning.

First, interested leaders must identify whether the church is PURPOSEFUL. Is there a commitment and intentionality in bringing the generations together? There are four factors that indicate such purposefulness:

  1. Foundation of healthy Christian relationships
  2. Commitment to faith formation and growth
  3. All ages worshipping together
  4. Intergenerational mission and service

The tool defines each of these factors. Leaders discuss the benefits and challenges of each, describe a current “snap shot” of the church, and brainstorm stretching further.

It’s not enough to just say we want to be intergenerational, we’ve got to do something about it. Here’s the “rubber meets the road” time. Those gathered for the conversation examine whether the church is PRACTICAL about being intergenerational. There are nine factors to assess effectiveness in this area:

  1. Decision about when and where to be intergenerational
  2. Role of clergy
  3. Intentional process to invite people into ministry leadership
  4. Advocates for intergenerational ministry
  5. Number of adults involved in children’s and youth ministry
  6. Evaluation of best practices
  7. Experiences to both learn and practice faith
  8. Use of resources
  9. Support of parents

Church leaders are instructed to break down into small groups to review and discuss each PRACTICAL factor and then use a scale to score how well the church is currently doing. Discussion questions are offered to build on strengths and improve weaknesses.

The most important of all to assess is IMPACT. Does what we believe and what we implement make a difference in peoples’ lives? Are there signs of positive effects of being an intergenerational church? People of all ages have plenty of activities to keep busy. We need to be certain that what the church offers, encourages, and facilitates has deep meaning and significance in our walk with Christ. There are six factors that we believe are indicators of being IMPACTFUL:

  1. Observable intergenerational relationships based on Christ’s example
  2. Demonstrable spiritual growth in individuals’ commitment to Christ
  3. Worship engagement and leadership across generations
  4. Participation by people of all ages in mission and service
  5. Growth in number of participants over time
  6. Sustainable ministry through change

Discussion questions focus on specific observations of impact and brainstorming ways to demonstrate and encourage deeper relationships.

The Visioning Tool is a downloadable free resource from our website. GenOn Ministries’ mission and vision is for all faith communities to grow intergenerational relationships in order for all people to grow deeper in their relationship with God.


Liz PerraudLiz Perraud is Executive Director of GenOn Ministries. GenOn trains, resources, and supports churches in healthy growth through intergenerational ministry. Liz is also a ruling Elder at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church (Columbia, MD) where she serves as the Christian Education Committee Chair and leads Bible study with middle schoolers at LOGOS.

Gathering at The WELL

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Arlene Decina

Just a few weeks ago we gathered for our first planning meeting for this, the fifth year of our multi-generational event called The WELL. A last-minute adjustment to our plans had the six of us meeting in the living room of a new member to the team. With napping children upstairs, this change in location made it possible for her to be with us, and us with her. Another friend, new to the team, brought along her almost-2-year-old who happily kept herself busy with an assortment of toys in this child-friendly home. Making space—sacred space—for one another regardless of age, or stage, or gender, or family configuration is what The WELL is all about.

well1Indeed, over the past four years, a wonderful mix of church family and friends—from ages 6 weeks to over 90, families and singles, youth and young adults—have attended this three-evening, retreat-style gathering.

We opened our meeting with a conversation around the question of what, for each of us, is most important about The WELL. Amid the changes that are inevitable, what is it that we hold dear and want to keep?

One person mentioned how she enjoyed the intentionality of the dinner seating—spending three nights sharing a meal with her table group and getting to know them on a deeper level.

Another recalled the multi-generational “Montreat-style” games at gathering time. “It was simple, but there was something for everyone … and it was okay to just stand around and talk.” “The Minute-to-Win-It” games at dinnertime were fun, too.”

Our conversation moved to what we would offer children during the after-dinner program. Those in middle school and older will remain with the larger group, but we heard affirmation that having separate activities for the younger children during this part of the evening was an important way to nurture parents. Finding adult leaders who know and love the children is key, but it also matters that we give our year-long, regular teaching staff a breather. They need to be refreshed as well.

well2We talked about the importance of play, and what it means to engage in play that is genuine. A newcomer to the group asked, “Is the purpose of all of this to have quality time together among the generations?” In unison we answered, “Yes!” to which she replied, “It’s like having Rainbow [our midweek Logos program] for three days in a row!” “It’s about making memories as a church family,” another chimed in, recalling this seed that was the inspiration of The WELL from the start.

Several spoke with fondness about the evening vespers, when we all gather in closing for blessings, prayers and goodbyes.

The WELL is mostly about hospitality—about being the church with and for one another.

All are welcome!

We gather for a potluck supper for our next planning meeting!

To learn more about The WELL, please read our first blog post about it.


decinaArlene Decina is the Director of Spiritual Growth Ministries at Burke Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia.

Sharing the Piece of Christ

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Gretchen Sausville

“It’s all about the bread!” – Jack, age 14

“No, it’s all about the brownies!” – Kim, age 14

“If brownies were around in Jesus time, he would have been breaking and sharing them!” – Maisie – 15

“Why do we need bread, when we have a bowl of brownies right here, and hot cocoa over there… this is our understanding of communion!”  – Tim age 16.

2015 communionI was 7 years into my call, and my Princeton trained ears perked up. I began reconciling the teachings of my beloved professors and the interpretation of communion through teenagers eyes. I had been classically trained in the formalities of the bread and cup, using the elements that were local to the community gathered. I was also taught that that pop and popcorn does not a Lord’s Supper make, but had anyone ever really considered brownies? Luckily for my purposes I had received session approval for this “communion meal.” I left it to the youth of my church to plan worship using their own interpretation of traditional practices, as I have always done with youth retreats. After all, communion led by youth on a retreat is not really communion, right?

The next day they were pleased with their worship service, which embraced music, scripture, sermon, prayers, and the most important piece in their eyes, brownie communion! They had spent the better half of a day planning it, and it was a perfect 30 minutes. Then Maisie said, “It’s not like they would actually let us do any of this in church, like church church. 8:30 maybe, but definitely not 10:30!”

My heart sank! These young adults had just created and led worship, using all the same pieces they see in the sanctuary on Sunday, but felt their expression of theology would not be accepted or permitted by the congregation they were exploring membership in. This is when I challenged them. If they could tell me what they wanted in worship on a given Sunday and the theology behind why they would do it differently, then they could speak knowledgeably and confidently to to session about the possibility of brownies for communion.

Soon, their fears were replaced with smiles, and I had an arsenal of information to take to session of worship and music committee. Six weeks later, after they were confirmed, we passed the “piece of Christ” in response to the rite of Confirmation. The confirmands came to the communion table and took the over flowing plates of brownies they had made and passed them out to the congregation in worship, as an act of worship. It was sweet and spirited, and enjoyed by all. There were no complaints to be had, only requests from the octogenarians to do that more often!

The brownies on Pentecost four years ago led to a shift in how we welcome not only young ones, but everyone into the worship life of the church. The brownies on Sunday lead to “Hearty Feasts” being prepared for certain communion Sundays. A hearty feast table is filled with fruits and nuts, honey and olives, sweet and savory breads, including brownies, and drinks of all kinds. At the table generations mingle together, speaking and sharing and eating the sweet and savory pieces of life.

We have moved our Fat Tuesday pancakes to Ash Wednesday so that we may break bread together and share communion around tables as an act of worship. Maundy Thursday has become a service of communion at one continuous triclinium table. It is not a seder, but a simple service, around a simple meal rooted in sacrament and scripture. Liturgy is said, prayers are prayed, bellies are filled, and God is glorified.

We still hold the traditions of generations passed and generations present together. We have also found balance, giving ears and voice to the younger generations, the reformers of the future. The shift has brought forth new language in the liturgies of baptism, communion, and confirmation based on our congregation’s understanding of ancient words for a modern day. A thesaurus has become a welcomed and well used addition to my book shelf.

Worship has the power to unite us, and when we focus on the community, the communion with one another and God comes naturally. Jesus had bread and wine, we do too.  We also have brownies and hot cocoa; pancakes and orange juice; and challah and merlot. The same God is glorified through all.


gretchen sausvilleGretchen N. Sausville serves as Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, CT.  A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, she is passionate about preaching and creative worship, helping people think about faith outside the box, and developing interfaith conversations and partnerships between Presbyterian and Jewish communities.  When not at work she is often performing on stage, traveling abroad with her backpack, cooking, or practicing yoga. Gretchen lives in West Hartford with her puppy, Beaken, and blogs at thestandbyetraveler.com.

I’m a Cradle Presbyterian

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Eli McCulloch Cappel

On a crisp Sunday morning in November, learners gathered in the adult education classroom at Christ Presbyterian Church. Set-up around the room were stations with computers, cell phones, and tablets equipped with microphones and recording apps. There were tables with scrapbooks and old directories as well as other activities that encouraged learners to reflect on their faith journey. As 9:30 approached, the interviewers took their places. Some could read, some could not. Some knew their interviewee, others had no relationship at all. All the interviewers were under the age of 12 and shared the same task, to learn the story of another in the Christ Presbyterian Church family. Interviews began with introductory questions, “What is your name? When were you born? Where were you born?” and then made the shift to personal stories. Interviewees were asked about their early church memories, who attended church with them, what their favorite Bible story was as a child, and finally, what they remember about becoming a part of the Christ Presbyterian Church family.  The questions were prescribed. The answers were sometimes cliche and predictable, but something meaningful happened in the in between.  Through the simple act of listening, relationships began to form between the least likely, the oldest and the youngest in the congregation.

image00 image00 (1)CrossGen (intergenerational) events at Christ Presbyterian Church, like the one just described, put into practice the idea that no matter our stage in life, we all have gifts to share. CrossGen events are designed to encourage children, parents, and older adults to learn and grow in a variety of ways, building relationships through education. These events are planned but not scripted. Organized but not inflexible. CrossGen events at their heart, intergenerational ministry at its heart, encourages each of us to see people. To engage in activities and conversation with individuals whom we share more differences than similarities. While CrossGen events occur largely within the four walls of the church, the lessons learned reach far beyond.

Jane is four years old. Elizabeth is eighty-seven years old. Together they talked…

Jane: What is a memory you have of CPC?

Elizabeth: Can I tell you two? One time one of my daughters got married – she got married right in the morning church service after the 11 o’clock and then a committee of women, my friends, had a wonderful reception right out there in the lawn, it was August and we had a brunch and a beautiful wedding cake – we had a ball. That was a happy happy time. And then another memory I have is when something sad happened to me – when my daughter died, my husband died, or when I got sick – someone was always there to help me feel better – and that’s why this is a family – and it’s yours Jane.

Moments after this conversation Jane was overheard saying, “I can go ask Elizabeth for you, she’s my friend.”

In a culture that preaches difference and divide, CrossGen events begin to lay the foundation for the forming of relationships that bridge the gaps. Think for a moment of your own community – what places, what organizations encourage the youngest among you to form relationships with the oldest? Where are relationships formed that bring meaning and give purpose to the lives of those they touch?

Intergenerational ministry isn’t a radical new idea. It’s not something just dreamt up. But it’s spotlight is a call to each of us to think intentionally about the spaces we provide for people to be seen as people. To put our -isms, our stances, and our judgments aside – to build-up rather than tear down. To look for a minute into the eyes of another, to listen to their story without interjecting our own, and to grow together as the body of Christ.


Elizabeth (Eli) McCulloch Cappel Elizabeth (Eli) McCulloch Cappel enjoys coloring with the toddlers, laughing with the teens, and sitting with the young at heart as Director of Christian Education at Christ Presbyterian Church in Camp Hill, PA. Molded by the relationships made in Central Pennsylvania, at Presbyterian College, and at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Eli hopes to pass along her love of learning through relationship to her two daughters as they begin their own journeys.

A Brief Reflection on Intergenerational Ministry

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

This post was originally shared on James’ blog, “Praxis.”

by James Kim

There are articles, blogs, books you can read about intergenerational ministry. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I don’t have much to add to the fine materials one can find out there.

This entry is a plea to anyone who may be considering doing “intergenerational ministry” from a guy who’s doing his best to lead a ministry that reflects the inter-generational nature of Christ’s ministry.

First, please don’t try to be who you’re not. That get’s weird. What do I mean?

That’s what I mean. That’s weird. Don’t do that.

Don’t try to “get relevant.” Just be authentically you. Should a young person come to your church, they are wanting folks to be real. And when they see that there aren’t many young people around, the last thing they are wanting is for the older folk to be “young.” Should the young people stick around, it will be because they see and sense a genuine love for Christ in you. They will be drawn by your way of loving and being loved by Christ.

So be you. Be a wiser, older, uncle/aunt or grandparent figure. You are not their “pals” and young people aren’t expecting that from you.

The reality is that most of our Presbyterian churches are older. That’s okay. It’s who we are. There’s no shame in that. And the good news of Jesus is that God will use who we are to reach people.

Lastly, please don’t do intergenerational ministry as a church growth strategy. No one wants to be someone else’s project. If you’re going to do intergenerational ministry, this is not about the future of your local church. This is kingdom investment in the people God sends your way. Young people who don’t know Jesus and who don’t share your local church history, don’t give a rip about the future viability of your local church. That’s one of the last reasons why they would be a part of a church community.

When young people show up it’s because they are hoping against hope that this God thing is for real and that they can experience in the church something bigger than them, bigger than this generation, bigger than this world. They want to connect with a God who is eternal and a community who can “usher” them into God’s presence.

Doing intergenerational ministry will be difficult, time-consuming, have a low investment-to-return ratio, and be costly.

So why should anyone do intergenerational ministry?

Because Christ’s kingdom is multi-generational in nature. Our local church should reflect that.


james kimJames Kim is the senior pastor at the Little Church on the Prairie in Lakewood, WA. 

Fellowship and Worship as Messy Church

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Suzie Gerrard Fletcher

Five years ago, I moved to a rural charge with three United congregations in the Church of Scotland.  The Sunday School as was had ceased to function during the vacancy, and soon after I arrived, it was decided we would try and do something completely different: Messy Church. An interested group of folk gathered for a training course and three months later held our first Messy Church. It is a great opportunity for people of all ages to worship together, and to create a sense of belonging. Broadly based around fellowship, it is both a fun and creative way to introduce people to Jesus through hospitality, friendship, stories and worship. And, to share together in a meal, which for many families and churches, is a rare occasion in this day and age.

Messy Church is its original form is a fresh expression of church that began in a Anglican church in Portsmouth as a way of being church for people who don’t do traditional church, for whatever reason. It is a church of all ages… and lots of churches have picked up on the idea and been able to adapt it for their own situations, both in the UK and overseas. It has grown and estimates are that well over 500,000 people belong to Messy Church, and that number is growing all the time. A typical session includes an introduction, crafts, a celebration (worship) and a hot meal.

In our situation, we have a craft leader and worship leader (myself), and should have had a catering team. We generally meet on the same Sunday from 4-6pm in the afternoon every month (some do it on a weekday or Saturday). There’s a brief introduction to the theme as folk are gathering and then everyone is let loose to go and explore eight different activities which help to tell the story in different ways. The emphasis is on crafts, being sure there is something for all ages and genders, and the adults come alongside and take part whilst lending a hand to younger children. We have a person at each table (ages ranging from teenagers to the elderly) to help explain how their activities relate to the story.

After about an hour, we call everyone to the front of the hall, as our hall is separate to the Church itself, and have a time of singing songs, telling the Bible story in a creative way, a participatory prayer and Messy Grace (blessing done in a circle), before we line up to share in a meal which we serve around one large circle of tables because our numbers allow for that.  The materials used are very helpful in organising each session.  

About half of those who come have/had some loose connection to church, whilst the other half have not. For most of these families, Messy Church is church and apart from special services, they do attend on Sunday morning, and after education of the elders aren’t expected to.  This sort of fellowship is new and different more many in the UK, and it is wonderful to see God at work in generations of people who might otherwise have never known much of the faith.

Messy Church is enabled, resourced and supported by BRF (Bible Reading Fellowship), a registered charity, as one of its core ministries.


suzie fletcherSuzie Garrard Fletcher is a parish minister in the Church of Scotland, where she serves a united charge of three small rural congregations. She graduated from Presbyterian College in 1996 and has a dual degree (M Div and MA in Christian Education) from Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, as was, and went to Scotland for a year, but she and her husband loved it so much she applied for admission to the Church of Scotland and has been working in Scotland since her ordination in 2001. They have three small children, with another on the way, and enjoy family life in a small village on the North Sea, with the convenience of the beautiful historic and cultural city of Edinburgh, just forty miles away.

Intergenerational Ministry: Not Just for Youth Ministry Anymore

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Kyle Anderson

For me, with an undergraduate degree and a decade of vocational experience in youth ministry, the idea of intergenerational ministry seems commonplace. For anyone with a background in youth ministry, it is almost assumed that intergenerational ministry is the way to do youth ministry.

_MG_6780Before I began seminary and while I was working at my last church, the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary published their research entitled Sticky Faith. The concern of the research was creating a faith that “sticks” once students graduate from high school and transition on from our youth ministries. Intergenerational ministry – the pairing of students with spiritually mature adults from the congregation – was one of the things which helped to contribute to sticky faith. In fact, the idea of adult mentorship within the congregation becomes one of the three sticky faith pillars.

As someone who was paid to do youth ministry (i.e. looking for results), this was exactly the kind of resource I was looking for! And it really is great. I’d recommend their books and resources to every congregation, pastor, youth worker, and parent out there (stickyfaith.org).

But what is it about intergenerational ministry that works? In the context of youth ministry, I think intergenerational ministry has become a tool or a resource to be used towards a greater end. When we do this, I think we are missing two theologically significant truths about the church and ministry.

  1. Our ministries in the world are only truly ministry if they are connected to God’s larger act of ministry. In other words, we are not the “doers” of ministry. We are invited into participation in something that God is already doing in our congregations, communities, and the world. We cannot simply apply a particular methodology to a ministry and expect a particular outcome; God doesn’t work that way. This is what Peter rebukes Simon the magician for in Acts 8. Simon offers Peter and John money to teach him how to impart the Holy Spirit and perform miracles.
  2. The youth ministry isn’t simply a sub group that will become the church in the future. In fact we need our young people – their ideas, opinions, perspectives, leadership – if we are truly to be the church. Think of the relationship between Samuel and Eli in 1 Samuel 3: Samuel had this experience with God that Eli did not. However, Samuel needed Eli’s help in interpreting God’s message to him. It was by neither of their efforts alone, but rather in their coming together, as equals, that the fullness of God’s revelation was revealed.

When we view intergenerational ministry as a tool to be implemented toward a greater end, we are missing the theological profundity of exactly what is happening. Intergenerational ministry doesn’t work because we “do” it well, but rather because it represents a truer, deeper, more profound sense of what God has created the church to be. I’d suggest that intergenerational ministry isn’t simply a resource, but rather it is the context, very place that God is at work within the church. I think this is the essence of NEXT Church, to engage this theological nuance in such a way that sparks imagination and creativity regarding new ways of being the church in our communities and the world.

The Book of Order puts it this way (which I love!): the polity of the PCUSA “presupposes the fellowship of women, men, and children united in covenant relationship with one another and with God through Jesus Christ. The organization rests on the fellowship and is not designed to work without trust and love.” (G-1.0102) (emphasis added)

NEXT Church is about being willing to risk everything for the sake of love of God and neighbor. When we reflect on intergenerational ministry it means letting go. It means providing a space for all, women, men, and children, in a meaningful way. It means moving from a model of assimilation to a model of mentorship. And for some (perhaps most) this is a radical redefining of what it means to be the church.


KyleKyle Anderson loves the church and working with students, and likes to play golf, travel, and take photos. Kyle lives in Princeton, NJ, with his wife and son where he is currently pursuing his MDiv at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The Art of Meeting

On Fridays, we are posting entries for a weekly blog journey by Angela Williams, our Young Adult Volunteer, of the day-to-day work to organize and create positive social change in her community. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Angela Williams

Meetings are a fact of life. Our schedules are full of them. Before this year, I had a few ideas and understandings of what meetings where and how they operated. They never start on time. They always go over time. You never get through the entire agenda in the time limit. Something will always come up that takes more than the budgeted time to flesh out, or someone will focus on a miniscule detail for far too long. I will be the first to admit that I have been the reason for every one of these unpleasantries in many meetings.

tsr_5246_webBefore working with NEXT Church and learning about organizing from Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), I thought that was the only possible way to meet. What I have learned, though, is that it is possible to bring a group of people together on the phone or around a table for a productive and relational conversation, covering every point on the agenda, creating space for questions, and ending on time. It takes a combination of planning ahead, moderation, and, perhaps most importantly, being in relationship.

As I have mentioned before, the foundation of community organizing is built upon relational meetings. When we sit face to face with another person, share a bit of our journey and listen to another’s, each of us opening up to vulnerability, it brings us into community with each other. We can better understand what the other brings to the table and what motivates that person to act, which allows us to empathize more in conversation. The solidarity of community that I feel in NEXT Church leadership meetings and at WIN action planning meetings are what fuel me to be better and to do more to create the world as it should be.

Each of us have likely experienced a meeting that became more of a social hour to catch up on life or an airing of grievances than a time to brainstorm to develop a plan of action. This is where the moderation and planning is key. When planning a meeting, organizing has taught me to ask key questions: What reaction do you want? What is the goal of this time together? What is something tangible you want to take away from this hour? When planning an action, you may want a set of next steps with people responsible for each part. When you need to create space for people to voice concerns, ask questions, share stories, or think about the bigger picture, perhaps a listening session is the better staging for a gathering. In any of these situations, it is still important to create time to build and foster relationships, which can be built into the agenda as a rounds question. At the most basic level, identifying names, locations, and organizations represented is helpful for every person to become more acquainted with others in the room. At a deeper level, folks can share where they are feeling stuck in their work, challenged by the world, or hopeful in their context, which will spur the conversation forward.

In any meeting setting, the moderator holds the important role of keeping the team on task, respecting all voices, and discerning when to allow a fruitful discussion to continue for the betterment of the group. Sometimes this means respectfully interrupting someone to refocus to the agenda. Other times, this means amending the agenda because someone raises a fundamental question the leaders had not considered, but it is one that deserves special thought and attention. By developing and distributing an agenda ahead of time and giving an overview at the beginning of the meeting, a moderator can prevent some of the tangents in the first place. From participating in, planning, and leading meetings with WIN and NEXT Church this year, I have come to believe that planning, moderation, and relational time make for the best meetings.

What are some of your best practices for leading meetings effectively?


AngelaWilliams270Angela Williams is currently walking alongside the good folks at NEXT Church and New York Avenue Presbyterian Church as a Young Adult Volunteer in Washington, D.C., after serving a first YAV year in the Philippines. She finds life in experiencing music, community organizing, cooking any recipe she can find, making friends on the street, and theological discussions that go off the beaten path.

And A Child Shall Lead Them

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Ellen Crawford True is curating reflections on intergenerational ministry. What does it look like for the church to do and be church together? What does it feel like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body? What can it mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Gretchen Sausville

Her name is Lily. She is a bright eyed, fair haired ten year old who began worshipping with us 6 years ago. When Lily and her parents first came to Westminster, we knew that this was not an average four year old. Lily was unafraid and outgoing in church, completely comfortable with her surroundings, endearing herself to everyone in the church family. She boldly spoke during time for children, enthusiastically sang hymns, chatted about the sermon to her parents during worship, and was less than thrilled to miss any part of the Sunday morning festivities.  Lily brought her parents to all church events, and knew everyone’s name in the congregation by the time she was five. If she didn’t know your name, she made sure that you knew hers!

child reading bible smallAs Lily grows, so does her faith and presence. Lately, she plays the Steinway piano in the sanctuary as folks traipse out into the hall for coffee hour, as her younger friends run through the sanctuary. She is the first to raise her hand when questions are asked, the first to draw a picture for the worship bulletin, the first to help the now 4 year olds navigate worship stations or “the good stuff” at coffee hour. She prays boldly for friends and pets and gives sermon feedback regularly. Not every child is like Lily, yet Lily has encouraged every child to be themselves at church. She has inspired a younger generation to be known, to be proud, and to be kids in church. In so doing, Lily has inspired the older generations too, reminding them that church is where every age and stage are welcome. She has chosen church members as her “grandparents for the day” at school, and calls up Granny Annie, who lives across the street, to take her to worship when her parents are unable. Lily loves church and the church loves Lily.

Recently, I received a call on a Friday evening, that Lily was in the hospital, the fever had come on quickly and she was very sick. As Lily sat in the hospital that night, her body fighting infection and fever, she prayed boldly, and she requested her parents call the pastors and Granny Annie. Little did she know, they already had, and prayers for this little one where being shared and lifted up amidst the congregation. Lily’s prognosis was pneumonia and several more days in the hospital. When her fever broke, Granny Annie and I went to Children’s Hospital to see her.  We had to wear gowns, masks, and gloves, a sight that made Lily laugh. As I prayed, she prayed too, clutching the hand of one of her favorite church people, Granny Annie. There in a tiny hospital room, the generations of the faithful were gathered, led by a child’s faith.

On Sunday, Lily’s absence was palatable. Her many adoptive grandparents were concerned and asking what kind of cookies to make her, her teachers planned their visits, and Lily sent a text stating how sad she was to be missing church! Later that evening, the call came that Lily was home, she had taken a turn for the better, and the only thing her parents could attribute it to, was the prayers of the church community.

Lily is special to our church family, as are all of our young ones. The young ones remind us how to be children of God and lose ourselves fully into God’s love and community. They remind us how to reach out to one another, unafraid to share our hurts, our fears, and our joys, as an act of worship. They remind us of our need for a church family and that donuts are always good at coffee hour!


gretchen sausvilleGretchen N. Sausville serves as Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, CT.  A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, she is passionate about preaching and creative worship, helping people think about faith outside the box, and developing interfaith conversations and partnerships between Presbyterian and Jewish communities.  When not at work she is often performing on stage, traveling abroad with her backpack, cooking, or practicing yoga. Gretchen lives in West Hartford with her puppy, Beaken, and blogs at thestandbyetraveler.com.

An Intergenerational Experience of the Church

by Ellen Crawford True

If I close my eyes I can see the hallway of my home church. The linoleum tiles are slick under my 3-year-old feet as I run to hug my best friend by the choir room. In the blink of an eye, I see the loving exasperation on my confirmation class teacher’s face. I’m too busy chatting with her son to listen to her celebrating the legacy of John Calvin whose serious face stares at me from the slide on the screen behind her. Blink again and I hear basketballs dribbling on the gym floor on a chilly Thursday night in January while my patient coach urges us to run a little faster and play a little smarter. (They can’t cut you from a church team, even if you have a non-existent vertical leap and are five feet tall on a good day.) I can feel the air swirling around me as four other classmates and I dance in the sanctuary while the choir sings a Christmas cantata. Another blink, and I am walking down that aisle to say my marriage vows moments after the church ladies–armed with safety pins and stain remover–have finished fussing over me and making sure everything is just so. Two years later I am kneeling in that same aisle to feel hands pressed on my head and shoulders while prayers are lifted at my ordination. It is the same place where we celebrate the resurrection at my mother’s memorial service, the same place where the church welcomes my daughter at her baptism.

Jess Fisher-2In each of these moments I see the faces and hear the voices of men, women, and children who have been church. At its best, my experience of faith has always been an intergenerational one, long before such a notion was trending. There were coaches, parents, Sunday school teachers, nursery workers. There were preschoolers and junior highs, circle leaders and the men’s bible study that gathered every so often on Friday mornings in my family’s living room. That was church for me. In many ways, it still is.

In recent years there has been an intentional move to recover this intergenerational emphasis in the church. Some of this movement has grown out of necessity: it doesn’t make sense to have Sunday school divided into too many different age groups when there are only a few children, one youth, and a handful of young adults present on Sunday mornings, so we look to be and do church all mixed together. But the more powerful motivation has been to regain something that gets lost in the larger world. Just as we are too often segmented and separated by gender, class, race, orientation, and ability, we are divvied up by age. As is the case with every division, something crucial and sacred is lost along the way, at least for me. My faith is deepened when I get time to color with three-year-olds. My heart is lifted when I laugh and pray with seventy-year-olds. I am challenged and encouraged when I hang out with and worship alongside people who don’t know the same eighties movie references I do, people who couldn’t name a single Prince song until just a few weeks ago. Something sacred happens when we do church together. I see holiness when I watch those three-year-olds and those seventy-year-olds color, laugh, pray, and tell stories together. In those moments, I catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

In the coming weeks, we will hear from a variety of voices from across the church as they reflect on intergenerational ministry. Like every other buzzword in church circles, it’s not about a one-size-fits-all program. It’s not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems or alleviate all of our anxiety. But in their reflections, we will hear hope. The posts will be written by pastors, seminary students, educators, and church members about what it looks like for the church to do and be church together, what it feels like to understand ourselves as vital parts of the body, what it can mean to seek to be faithful as children of God together, no matter what comes next.


EllenCrawfordTrueA native of Nashville, TN, Ellen Crawford True graduated from Davidson College and Union Presbyterian Seminary. She has served churches in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. She’s a fan of grits, biscuits, running, dancing, and Steph Curry. She lives in Camp Hill, PA with her husband Dave, their daughter Abby, and their dog Homer. She serves as Pastor and Head of Staff of Christ Presbyterian Church, also in Camp Hill.