2018 National Gathering Ignite: Jason Santos

Jason Santos, Mission Coordinator for Christian Formation at Presbyterian Mission Agency, gives an Ignite presentation at the 2018 NEXT Church National Gathering.

His Ignite presentation is called “Killing Church Softly.” For the last half-century, we’ve increasingly formed our children and youth through developmentally-centered, age and stage, peer-oriented ministry programs that essentially removed them from the corporate life of the church–this ignite presentation highlights the failure of those efforts through generational and identity formation theory.

Workshop Materials: Intergenerational Ministry: Why and How

Workshop: Intergenerational Ministry: Why and How
Presenters: Liz Perraud

Attached you will find handouts from the “Intergenerational Ministry: Why and How” with Liz.

Workshop description: Imagine a church with few children, where generations gather together. Imagine a multi-cultural congregation gathered together instead of dividing. Imagine generations in your church knowing and learning from each other. Is the way we do Christian education changing? You can gather all generations to learn, serve, worship, and play together. Explore the concept of intergenerational ministry and discover why gathering multiple generations together is important for faith development and church growth.

Faith Formation Resources

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!

To close out our series on faith formation, we asked folks to tell us about their favorite faith formation resources.

As we close out our June blog series on faith formation, we want to hear from YOU: what faith formation resources have…

Posted by NEXT Church on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Here’s what they said:

  • Illustrated Children’s Ministry: both it and Praying in Color “tap into some quality activities/lessons for multiple age ranges.”
  • Vibrant Faith: has been “particularly helpful in…continued learning as an educator.” The group aims to connect faith leaders to generate “adaptive change in Christian faith formation.”
  • APCE Annual Event: the yearly gathering of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators
  • Storypath: a blog hosted by Union Presbyterian Seminary that connects children’s literature to scripture. “Being able to search by topic, Sunday in the church year, or scripture makes it so user-friendly!”
  • Faith Inkubators: an organization that strives “to make home the primary inkubator of faith for disciples of all age by replacing classroom models of education with parent-involved small group models.

Have other resources to add? Share in the comments!

Three Models for Intergenerational Faith Formation

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 Building Faith blog.

by Matthew Kozlowski

Intergenerational Conference
Back in October 2014, I attended the Lifelong Faith Associates symposium on intergenerational faith formation. About 100 practitioners from a variety of churches and denominations gathered to discuss intergenerational models of teaching and sharing the Christian faith. The following article summarizes much of what I learned at this outstanding conference. The three models described below are not the only ways to do intergenerational ministry, and this is by no means an exhaustive or authoritative list.

The Sunday School Question
One issue that I want to get out of the way: intergenerational formation is not about closing or “killing” Sunday school. Many people doing intergenerational work have taught or coordinated Sunday school, and they understand its benefits. That being said, these leaders are willing to ask whether a classroom model (grouped by age or grade) is the best format for every church.

Intergenerational Model 1: Large Gatherings
Some churches that have transitioned out of the age-group classroom model host large intergenerational gatherings instead. All ages are invited to these monthly events, and organizers embrace the excitement and challenge of planning the large gatherings. I met representatives from several large Roman Catholic parishes that are fully committed to this model, and no longer offer traditional classes for children (sometimes called CCD). Instead, all families and children are invited to the monthly events.

The churches publicize the entire schedule in advance, expect wide participation, and even ask for registration and a small payment to cover food and materials. Intergenerational gatherings are often around two hours, and may include food, icebreakers, worship, music, and study. Some churches do include break-out sessions in which adults and children split up, briefly, for age-specific study.

Intergenerational Model 2: Small Groups

Many Christians are familiar with small groups, but intergenerational small groups are different in that adults, teenagers, and young children all meet, pray, and study together.

But how does the content work? Surely a 4-year-old cannot comprehend Bible study at the same level as a 44-year-old. This is true. But in an intergenerational small group, children are encouraged to participate as they are able, and to listen and be present. Additionally, the format is usually simple: sharing, scripture reading or devotions, and praying for one another.

The benefits, say proponents, far outweigh the drawbacks. Imagine a younger child praying for a teenager, while other members of the group lay hands on them. In intergenerational small groups, this is normal practice.

Intergenerational Model 3: Enhance Existing Programs

The intergenerational model that may translate well to many congregations is the “weave model” –  not an official term, but a phrase I made up for descriptive purposes. This model looks at all the events and formation opportunities that a church currently offers, and asks – in a very practical way – how can this become intergenerational? For example, do adults already make palm crosses before Palm Sunday? Invite all ages and create an intergenerational event. Does the youth group already deliver items to nursing homes? Invite older adults to help, and young children to tag along and participate.

Extreme Practical Planning
When considering any of the above models, there is a caution to keep in mind: intergenerational programming takes careful planning. For a leader, this means thinking up everything that could go wrong, and then stacking the odds in your favor. For example, a favorite Building Faith post explains how to ensure that multiple generations sit with one another at tables. As a leader, you can have all the best questions and activities in the world, but for the program to work you must create mixed groups.

Theoretical Grounding

The theory underpinning intergenerational formation proposes that people learn faith through the community of faith. Notice that this is not a one-directional movement of adults to children. ALL participants in the life of the church learn through the insight, experience, support, and prayers of the other members of the community.

An 80-year-old can learn quite a bit by reading the parable of the laborers in the vineyard with an 8-year-old. Teenagers often have powerful lessons to teach about service and mission. And of course, as it has always been, trusted adults teach and model Christian faith to children in worship, study, and charity.

As Maria Harris writes in Fashion me a People, “The doers of education are the community as community… [We] are realizing that the church does not have an educational program; it is an educational program” (page 47).

Focus on Relationships
A good framework for any church considering intergenerational formation is a focus on relationships. That is to say, churches can create a plethora of opportunities for all ages to connect with one another in meaningful, faith-based, conversations and experiences. Yes, the events and the content must be well planned and well done, but the programming is not the end-goal. The goal is mutual learning, growing closer to Christ, and deepening faith. In intergenerational formation, people of all ages make this journey together.

Matthew Kozlowski manages, edits, and writes for Building Faith. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife Danielle and two young daughters. Throughout his career he has been a teacher, camp counselor, school chaplain, camp chaplain, Sunday school teacher, parish priest, and Alpha course coordinator.

This article was first published in the Spring 2015 edition of Episcopal Teacher, a free magazine published by the Center for the Ministry of Teaching.

Pastorpreneur: The Business of Serving God’s People

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Layton Williams is curating a series we’re calling “Ministry Out of the Box,” which features stories of ministers serving God in unexpected, diverse ways. What can ordained ministry look like outside of the parish? How might we understand God calling us outside of the traditional ministry ‘box?’ We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Adam Walker Cleaveland

“Hi, my name is Adam, and I’m an entrepreneur.”


When I was in seminary ten years ago, if you had told me I would graduate, serve three churches, and then start a business creating resources for children’s ministry… I would never have believed you.

First, I really didn’t care for children’s ministry (shhh, don’t tell anyone).

Second, I had read a lot of business and leadership books while in ministry and during my time in seminary, but it always felt like I should have been reading them with those old brown paper bag book covers like you used to make in elementary school for your textbooks. Sure, you could glean some interesting analogies and ideas from those books for ministry, but they were business books, and ministry and business needed to be kept far away from each other. I was, after all, pursuing the higher calling – being a pastor.

Oh, the naiveté of a first-year seminarian.

Photo from Illustrated Children’s Ministry

And yet, here I am. Ten years out of seminary and I’m a businessman (although, when I was just starting out and living the life of a ‘solopreneur,’ I could understand why Jay-Z might have felt like he himself was the business, man, and not just a businessman).

My journey here was not a quick or easy one. It was filled with successes, joys, and a lot of fulfillment serving churches in parish ministry. It was also filled with loss, depression, conflict, and moments of utter frustration with my calls. Parish ministry can be life-giving, but it can also suck the life out of you. It can make you question your call and your faith, and one can grow increasingly cynical about ministry.

Through a series of events over a two-year period, I eventually found myself imagining what it would look like to start a business offering illustrated faith resources to churches and families. The fact that there was an adult coloring craze occurring at the same time that I launched Illustrated Children’s Ministry (ICM) was also quite helpful.

Once the business began to take off and I started writing and talking more about the work we were doing, I found myself oddly avoiding some words related to the business. I became aware that I used certain words instead of more business-y-sounding words. I wouldn’t talk about our “products” but I would share extensively about our “resources.” We didn’t have “customers” – we had a “community.” ICM was a ministry – not a business.

For someone who spent a lot of time reminding parishioners that they could live out their callings as doctors, teachers, and businesspeople, I sure was having a hard time acknowledging that it wasn’t a bad thing that I was now an entrepreneur running a successful business. Why did I feel the need to avoid words like “products” when that is exactly what we sell at ICM? It’s like all those conversations in seminary about the church not being a business made me think that there was something wrong with being a business, or a businessperson.

And clearly, there isn’t anything wrong with it.

In fact, now that I am an entrepreneur and running my own small business, I feel like I’m doing more ministry and having a greater impact in the world by using my gifts in this way. One of the products that ICM sells is large coloring posters. For this past Advent, we had over one thousand churches from all over the world using our posters and creating opportunities for their communities to gather intergenerationally. We are currently selling stations of the cross coloring posters, and we’ve surpassed our numbers from Advent. I’m guessing that we’ll have close to 1,500 churches, schools, campus ministries, and retirement communities around the world coloring our posters.

Whether by choice or by necessity, I imagine that more and more pastors are going to start thinking about alternative ways that they can support themselves and their families, and starting a business is a great option. Fizzle is an online community for independent entrepreneurs who are working hard to earn a living doing something they love. I found this community when I started ICM and it’s been an incredible place of information and support. The crew at Fizzle says that the most successful businesses come together when you find a problem that people have in the world, you get to know those people, and care about them enough to be able to offer them a solution to that problem.

Gosh, I feel like I’ve heard something like that before.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
-Frederick Buechner

Adam Walker Cleaveland is the founder of Illustrated Children’s Ministry, LLC, a business that creates illustrated faith resources for the church and the home. He lives in Chicago with his wife (a pastor), their 5-yr old son and 6-week old daughter. Find out more about Illustrated Children’s Ministry at their website:

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

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.