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