Love Letters: The Intentional Practice of Remembering Baptisms

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sarang Kang and Lynn Turnage are curating a blog series on faith formation. We’ll hear from various people who are involved in faith formation personally, professionally, and perseveringly. How has your faith been formed? How has your faith formed you? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Vickie Caro Dieth

In a family where juggling meetings and appointments and practices and laundry and meals is no small feat, it’s easy to forget things… especially when they happen only once a year. Luckily, my children were born on New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, so their birthdays are easy to remember. The anniversaries of their baptisms? Not so much. The time of year is helpful, as one was baptized on Mother’s Day and the other, the first Sunday in Advent. But remembering the actual dates of their baptisms has been difficult for me and I’m most grateful for the reminders my phone gives me each year as the days near.

When my first child was born, my husband orchestrated what has become one of the most significant faith-sharing events for our family. Unbeknownst to me, he asked friends and family to write letters to our child about her baptism. As he collected the letters, he put each one into its own manila envelope, sealed it, and slipped it into a notebook where they would all be kept together.

In his planning, my husband requested enough letters to allow for one letter to be opened every year on the anniversary of our daughter’s baptism until she reached the age of confirmation. In the spring of this year, she completed our church’s confirmation process, and we read the last letter.

Some years we’ve done better at honoring the day than others. Some years there were cupcakes and some years the letters were read a few months late. But every year we’ve read a new letter.

It’s always a fun surprise to open one of the letters. I was never told who was asked to write to my daughter, and several years and two moves later, my husband doesn’t remember who responded, but they were all significant members of our own faith family. There were notes from the pastor who led the service and the elder who poured water into the baptismal font. My father’s letter shared his appreciation for the congregation that promised to nurture his granddaughter in her faith in God. There were letters from members of the youth group and their families. Some people chose to include pictures of themselves so she would know who they were. Each message spoke of the gift of belonging to the family of God.

Pastors and church educators are often telling us, “Remember your baptism,” but in a denomination that baptizes infants, this can be difficult to do. We encourage parents to share with their children the stories of the big day, but sometimes the family luncheon afterward or the heirloom gown worn by the baby claims the bulk of the memories, rather than the theological significance of the event. I am grateful for this collection of letters that reminds us of the promises made the day our faith community recognized Christ’s claim on our daughter. It is my prayer that it will help her make connections between her baptism and the day she claims the Church’s faith as her own.

I don’t really know what this notebook means to my daughter. She only knows or remembers some of the people we talk to her about. But to me, it is one of the most special gifts she will ever receive. Each year when we gather around the book of letters, we laugh and we remember. Each year we get to learn a bit of someone else’s faith story. Those who contributed took the time to reflect a little about their own faith and what it means to welcome a child into the church family. In their letters, people shared with our daughter their adult faith. The fact that she doesn’t know some of these folks reminds us of the universal nature of the baptismal vows we make. And every time she opens the book, my daughter is reminded that there has never been a time when she hasn’t been part of a faith community, that there are people other than her parents who love her, and that she is a child of God.


Vickie Caro Dieth is a Director of Christian Education and ruling elder at Christ Presbyterian Church in sunny Tallahassee, FL. Her doctoral work at Columbia Theological Seminary addressed teaching emotional intelligence as a tool for faithful discipleship. She is married to Rev. Danny Dieth and they have two daughters, Hannah and Abby.  

Why We Should Pay Attention to Brain Research

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sarang Kang and Lynn Turnage are curating a blog series on faith formation. We’ll hear from various people who are involved in faith formation personally, professionally, and perseveringly. How has your faith been formed? How has your faith formed you? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

This post was originally shared on the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators blog.

by Holly Inglis

Why should the church pay attention to brain research? With everything else happening in and around us, why should we attempt to understand and apply scientific research about the brain? What difference would it, could it make? Consider these scenarios:

  • Catherine, age 10, has attended Vacation Bible School for as long as she can remember. She tells her mother that she learns more at VBS than she does at Sunday School. Why?
  • The youth group has just returned from their mission trip to help rebuild homes in a part of the US recovering from a natural disaster. During their presentation in worship, several youth tell how this experience was transformative and made them feel closer to God. Why?
  • A worship service last summer focused on all the mission and service ministries of the church. But more than just talking about each of those ministries, individuals from the congregation were visibly present at the front of the sanctuary engaged in the ministry. There was bike repair happening, communion being prepared, small flower arrangements created from the Sunday morning arrangements in the Sanctuary to be delivered to homebound members. Months after this worship service, many people continue to comment that it was one of the most meaningful services they can remember. Why?
  • This year’s stewardship campaign was more successful than any in recent years. The stewardship committee was puzzled because everything was the same as usual: pledge cards, sermon series, personal phone calls. The only difference were the “moments for generosity” that were shared right before the offering was received each week. Individuals from the congregation told personal stories of ordinary acts of generosity that had great impact on their lives and on their faith. Many of those stories were quite touching. Could this have made the difference?

We want to believe that what we do in the church and in our various ministries make a difference and have a lasting impact on students. The greatest impact we can have is not merely by imparting wisdom or knowledge but by gaining a better understanding of how learning occurs and how learning can be reinforced and become part of the long-term memory of individuals, impacting not only their thinking and reflection in the current setting, but their actions and behavior in settings beyond the walls of the church. If we become more aware of the way our brains learn and remember and if we are able to make some shifts in what we teach and how we teach, we may have a greater likelihood of being agents of transformation for those who participate in our ministries.

Let’s look at the answers to the questions posed in the scenarios above as a way to understand some of the implications of brain research for the church.

  • Why does Catherine learn more at VBS than she does in Sunday School? Brain research indicates that repetition is important to learning and the formation of long-term memory. Most traditional Vacation Bible School experiences meet daily for several days and for several hours at one time. Songs are repeated, often with associated movements. Themes are repeated and reinforced through Bible stories, crafts, games and even snacks. Several senses are engaged intentionally and brain research indicates that the more senses we engage the greater the likelihood that the information will stick. The use of visual props and decorations enhance the excitement and experience for the participants and once again, brain science tells us that vision tops all our other senses and is a top priority for our brains.
  • Why are mission trips, retreats, and similar experiences so often transformative for the participants, particularly for our youth? Part of the answer may lie in the fact that the participants in these events are often physically moving, whether that is working on a job site, working on a challenge course, walking or hiking, or playing games. Exercise boots our brain power. Then there are the emotional connections that are made during these experiences. Emotion is the glue that makes memories stick. Regardless of whether the emotions we experience are positive or negative, our brains retain items of information that significantly engage one or more of our senses and evoke strong feelings.
  • What made the mission and service oriented worship service so memorable? First, there was something visual for participants to watch while people were talking. More of our brain is used to process visual information than other kinds of information, like auditory. Unless your worship services are unique, most of the content is auditory. Because there was something visual for worshippers to focus on, they may have paid more attention. We don’t pay attention to boring things. Emotions were also aroused as stories of the impact of these ministries were shared. Remember emotional memories last.
  • Why was the stewardship campaign more successful this year? There could have been many factors, but the fact that the one additional element was the Moment for Generosity stories, tapping the emotions of the listeners and interjecting something unexpected into the worship service, thereby grabbing the attention of the listeners as well. There is one more thing that may have affected the outcome of the campaign – mirror neurons. We learn by watching what others do and while the worshippers did not see the individuals directly engaged in acts of generosity, as the individuals described their experiences, the listeners’ brains were making pictures of what they heard, so in effect they did “see” what was being described, as if they were present.

For the most part, this is not new information. Taking the time to apply these principles to areas of ministry outside the Sunday School classroom can be somewhat challenging, but holds the potential to be literally and neurologically transformative.

To put what you’ve just learned into practice in your own setting, give this article to others and plan to discuss the implications. Come up with your own scenarios and ask the “Why?” question for yourselves.

Additional Resources

The Synaptic Gospel: Teaching the Brain to Worship by Christopher D. Rodkey (University Press of America), 2012

Sticky Learning: How Neuroscience Supports Teaching That’s Remembered by Holly J. Inglis, Kathy L. Dawson, Rodger Y. Nishioka (Fortress Press), 2012

Implications of Brain Research for the Church by Allen Nauss (Lutheran University Press), 2013

Brain-based Worship by Paula Champion-Jones (WestBow Press), 2014

Brain Rules by John Medina (Pear Press), 2014 (original edition 2007)

Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina (Pear Press), 2014

Brain-Savvy Leaders by Charles Stone (Abingdon), 2015


Holly Inglis is a Certified Christian Educator currently serving as the Associate Pastor for Nurture at Palms Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where she implements whole-brain strategies in worship and education. She is also president of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE).

Faith Formation, Forming Us

by Sarang Kang

Consciously and subconsciously, our lives are filled with moments of faith. These moments, with intentional efforts of our families, friends, and organized groups, continue to help us form our faith. Faith is not a singular aspect but a multifaceted, living – and at times breathing – thing. Faith changes as we change, and as our faith changes, it changes us. In other words, we inform our faith formation, but our faith in turn forms us.

During the month of June, the NEXT Church blog will visit various people who are involved in faith formation personally, professionally, and perseveringly. Lynn Turnage and I, blog curators for the month, hope that the posts help you consider how your faith has been formed, and how your faith has formed you. Ultimately, we hope this series will be foundational material as local churches work on planning for the fall.

But first, let’s hear from you: how has your faith been formed and, in turned, formed you? Leave a comment below or on the NEXT Church Facebook page!


Sarang Kang is an adult third culture kid that has self-identified as Korean American since 2011. She is a Christian educator currently exploring the intersection of vocation and calling, as well as identity imposed, identity imparted, and true identity. She is a member of the NEXT Church strategy team.

Building Communities, Not Programs

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Jen James, a christian educator in the National Capital Presbytery, asks what would happen if we spent more time considering what happened outside of the church walls instead of church programming. What if this year, our churches committed to making healthier communities instead of building up our own programming?  Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

What Are We Praying For?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Steve Lindsley is curating reflections on a physical faith. How does one practice a physical faith – inside or outside of the church? In what ways can we experience God through our bodies and our communities? And how does movement, of many forms, bind us to a deeper sense of spirituality? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Steve Lindsley

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:6

Oops.  Prayer fail.

How did I find myself here, you ask?

steve panthers prayerLast September a lady in my church, a sweet woman who sings in the choir and works for American Airlines and happens to be a rabid Panthers fan, commented how cool it’d be if I did an invocation for a Panthers football game. Which I, of course, heartily concurred with. So she made some phone calls and discovered the application process. I submitted a page of information and she a letter of recommendation.

I actually forgot all about it until the January Monday morning after the final regular season game when an email from Jason in the Panthers Entertainment Division (yes, the Entertainment Division) popped up in my inbox. They needed an invocationist for their home playoff game less than two weeks away and had four tickets and field passes to go with it. Was I interested?

You bet your Keep Pounding hashtag I was.

If you want the play-by-play of the whole affair that brisk January Sunday morning, head over here to my blog. In short, it was a pretty amazing experience for the family and a lot of fun for this faithful Panthers fan. That guy you see standing on the end zone line of a home playoff game was as giddy as an elementary school kid on free snickerdoodle cookie day.

But after initially getting over the thrill of Jason’s email, I faced the hard questions:

What in the world do I pray for? How exactly does one pray at/for an NFL football game?

Jason had given me some guidelines, which were certainly helpful. No more than 45 seconds. Use generic names for God (in other words, “God”). Non-sectarian in nature. They even provided a sample model prayer. I’d need to submit my prayer by next week for official approval.

I have no problem with that; I’m cool to play by their rules. But still – what do I pray for?

Because I don’t pray for the home team to win, right? I mean, not out loud. If you saw me sitting on the living room couch during every regular season game, I think it’d be pretty obvious there was a lot of praying going on. But this would be different. I get that God doesn’t care who wins. That’s our job as the fans.

I also had a couple of people encourage me to take advantage of the “public pulpit” this kind of venue provides. Seize it as a platform to address some hot-topic issue and make a powerful statement to the masses. But I’ve never been a fan of that sort of thing – feels too much like deception and dishonesty and, in the end, being more about you than the issue itself.

So what should this invocation be all about? As far as I know, the Panthers are the only team in the NFL who does such a thing, perhaps modeled after the pre-race prayer in nearby NASCAR world. Twenty minutes before kickoff, when a good chunk of the crowd has just popped the top of an overpriced Bud Light in the concourse. Why pray?

Whatever reasons the Panthers have for this pre-game ritual is none of my concern. And I have no desire to be all platform-ish with words far removed from what I’d previously been green-lighted for. I think society expects this behavior from some segments of the church, whether it’s protesting against this cause or that policy, waving signs and shouting insults instead of listening and speaking in love. I sense a weariness and rolling of the eyes from the general populous over this sort of behavior.  

At the same time, I think something of value needs to be shared. I’m not a fan of content-void prayer. Because as much as I think society rolls their collective eyes at the church’s worst moments, I also believe society longs for the church, and those who represent it, to say and do something of consequence and meaning. They crave authenticity from the church.

So that’s what I’d shoot for in my prayer.  And when all was said and done, here’s what I came up with: 

God of all creation,

we come to you this afternoon with great excitement and anticipation,

as we share in the privilege

of watching two teams compete for their ultimate goal.

 

We pray for their safety and well-being;

and in return honor their efforts by exhibiting good sportsmanship and excellence ourselves.  

 

As we relish the joy of gamesmanship and competition,

we remember those near and far who are hurting and in need.  

 

May this game inspire us to live our lives to their fullest potential,

so that collectively we may pursue the greater good for all.  

 

We humbly ask that you hear our prayer this day, and may all the people say, AMEN.


Steve Spring 2015When he’s not being the senior minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, or songwriting/gigging, or keynoting/leading music for various retreats and conferences, or blogging at thoughts-musings.com, or playing pick-up basketball with his two sons, or cheering on his beloved Panthers and Hornets, or watching music reality TV shows with his lovely wife, Steve Lindsley is probably sleeping.

Energizers: Movement with a Purpose

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Steve Lindsley is curating reflections on a physical faith. How does one practice a physical faith – inside or outside of the church? In what ways can we experience God through our bodies and our communities? And how does movement, of many forms, bind us to a deeper sense of spirituality? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Omayra González- Méndez

Can you imagine fifty people doing silly movement to a song? What about 2,000 of them all together before worship? Well if you get the idea, you kind of know what “doing an energizer” is! Yep, it’s a silly thing that we do primarily at youth conferences, but I’ve been seeing it more often in other church gatherings.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 2.03.02 PMWhat is the spirituality of having a group of people just dancing together on a song with movement that does not make any logical sense, not even professional movement? Or doing friendship bracelets or play outside with a ball? Well, that is all part of what we call recreation.

Recreation is more than “time to play.” It is about creating community. For years, I have been a rec leader in many events and people think “Oh, that’s so fun, you are just playing around.” Don’t get me wrong, we play and have fun, but we do with a meaning and purpose. The psalms often talk about dancing and praise – “Praise him with the timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and organs” (Psalm 150:4).  Ecclesiastes 3:4 also tells us that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

The truth is that some people don’t feel good about their body or they see other people moving and feel ashamed and don’t know how to express their joy. That’s why we dance. When you dance with a lot of other people, you don’t feel shame. It is part of feeling good about who you are and being with others who feel the same. The energy goes around, the spirit moves.

I learned this when I was a youth myself. At that age you don’t always understand your body – everything is changing and you are much more self-conscious about what you’re doing and how you look. But when you create space for people to feel safe, when you create the expectation that we don’t want you to be perfect, that we accept you as God accept you for who you are, you start moving, you start dancing and you feel free.

And what about games and crafts? Well, that is another way to express yourself. Doing crafts allows you time to sit down and focus on something specific. Many crafts have connections with a sermon or a specific Bible verse. The idea is to keep you thinking on the word of the Lord. A teacher just told me that you remember only 10% of what you hear but 70% of what you do, so I think that crafts and games have their importance.   

I try to lead games that invite people work together, help people understand the need to be part of the greater body of Christ. Everyone has a purpose. Sometimes people don’t stop to think of the theological part of what they are doing – and that’s okay – but I know that God works in every single moment of the day.

Energizers may not be the traditional way of doing worship or teaching the Bible, but is a way and sometimes that’s all that we need – a way to start doing things. God will take care of the rest!


OmayraOmayra L. González- Méndez is news editor, movie lover and super passionate about the church. From media reports, pictures and videos, she takes every free minute to work in different organizations of the Presbyterian Church, both locally and internationally. As an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Hato Rey, she works with youth society and finance ministries. Omayra understands that all parts of the church are equally important. She will take a summer to sit and follow the committees of the General Assembly of the PCUSA, and fly the next day to lead recreation in a youth event. All matters of the church, processes and creation, fascinate her.

Being Shaped by the Body

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Steve Lindsley is curating reflections on a physical faith. How does one practice a physical faith – inside or outside of the church? In what ways can we experience God through our bodies and our communities? And how does movement, of many forms, bind us to a deeper sense of spirituality? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Rob McClellan

I was nervous the first time I tried it out at a men’s night at the church.  We had gathered to enjoy fellowship, to sing, to hear a speaker from the congregation, to engage in discussion and then… to practice body prayer. “One of these things is not like the other…” as they say.

Yet then it happened. As I led them through some simple motions, I looked up to see everyone, young and old, moving in concert, not a snicker in the room. There is something powerful about moving in prayer and doing so in community. I believe people are yearning to have faith with their whole selves not just their minds.

To learn a simple routine of body prayer, watch this video.

On paper, I’m a funny one to ask about physical faith. I have spent much of my life in the academy, relishing pursuits of the mind. I am keenly aware, however, that increasingly people enter the faith not because they have been convinced, but because they have been moved.

Rarely does anyone come to the church I serve looking to be told what to believe, and yet I found that many of the forms of ministry we offer are predominately focused on what occurs from the neck up — classes, sermon-centered worship, and intellectually stimulating discussion. Those forms are both meaningful and important. They are also not everything.

If our messages have grown more and more open in the church, then our forms ought to follow suit. We would do well to put just as much care into the art of ushering people into the experience of the sacred as we do into crafting good doctrine. Experiential ministry is a wonderful way to make room for the Spirit to work and play.

For these reasons, I am engaged in a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) project on pilgrimage, reframing this ancient practice for these new times. A lot happens when you walk in the Spirit. Conversations flow with ease between utter strangers. Thoughts and memories emerge with the gentle nudging between soil and foot. Singularity of intention leads to clarity of mind. Energy usually built up behind a desk is released, and with it all sorts of creativity pours out. The dividing walls between the sacred and the secular sweetly dissolve.

Two years ago, I went on an interfaith pilgrimage on the Camino in Spain. We shared in the practices of each other’s tradition and I was struck by how embodied the other traditions were. We have a lot to learn from them. Many of us spend too much time (not of our own choosing) shoring up our church buildings. What if the church gave equal attention to (and received surpassing joy from) the living temples that are our bodies?  

This spring, I return to the Camino, this time with members of my congregation. My job won’t be to teach them, or even to move them. The Spirit will take care of that.  I’ll just be there to show them the way.


Rob McRob McClellan, Pastor/Head of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, CA, is married to The Rev. Sherri Hausser, has a 3 1/2 year old son, studies pilgrimage, and believes Christians “find God in nature” too.

A Physical Faith

by Steve Lindsley

My church was built in the 1950’s as an offshoot of Myers Park Presbyterian a few miles up the road. They built a gorgeous sanctuary that seats 700. They built not one but two classroom buildings that, to this day, contain the standard wooden tables and chairs we all know and love. We’re doing new things with our space these days because that’s what churches today are having to do. Our session recently voted to remove a few pews to the side of the pulpit in order to create a wonderful open area dedicated to music, and those classroom buildings are home to both a preschool and Philips Academy, a school for middle and high-school students with learning disabilities.

trinity pres energizersBut in a lot of ways our church is still like many: founded and built on the premise that encountering and engaging faith involves a lot of sitting and being still. Passive. Doing faith in our heads. One-way communication from pulpit or teacher. Faith received.

Now I’ll be the first to admit it: I could stand to slow down a bit. I’m in constant movement with my work in ministry, with my family, with all the obligations and responsibilities my life contains. There is an inherent, rich value in tranquility, especially as it pertains to growing in faith and connecting with the God who created us and loves us still.

Even so, it’s pretty obvious that there is a constant and consistent presence of movement in our faith tradition. The Israelites wandered for forty years. Jesus healed with his hands. Paul traveled all over. Ezekiel saw a vision of God on wheels. We are more than just the frozen chosen – we are on the move!

This June, the NEXT Church blog series will focus on ways people encounter spiritual growth through movement – everything from running to body prayer to energizers. We hope these blogs will elicit questions like: how does one practice a physical faith – inside or outside of the church? In what ways can we experience God through our bodies and our communities? And how does movement, of many forms, bind us to a deeper sense of spirituality?

It should be a fun month. Now it’s time to get up from my computer and take a walk. Gorgeous North Carolina day outside, and it’s calling my name.


Steve Spring 2015When he’s not being the senior minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, or songwriting/gigging, or keynoting/leading music for various retreats and conferences, or blogging at thoughts-musings.com, or playing pick-up basketball with his two sons, or cheering on his beloved Panthers and Hornets, or watching music reality TV shows with his lovely wife, Steve Lindsley is probably sleeping.

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.