Championing ministry for the generations

Uniting Generations is officially the new intergenerational ministry model adopted by the Presbytery of WA.
At the recent meeting of the Presbytery of WA, held on Saturday 5 November, members agreed to the new
model which will encourage and resource churches to engage in intergenerational activities.

Moving on from First Third Ministry, which was adopted in 2007, Rev Luke Williams, a member of the First Third Committee, believes Uniting Generations is the obvious next step.

“I think the first ten years of First Third Ministry gave us an opportunity to go from very little focus on ministry with and to young people, to an opportunity to try and do something,” Luke said.

“On that journey there’s been lots of wins and lots of learnings, all of which are valuable in taking the next step forward. And this model is simply an opportunity to take what we believe has worked, reshape what we believe hasn’t worked, and move into the next phase.

“Now that First Third and its specialists and staff have increased the recognition for the need of intergenerational ministry across the Presbytery, we can head into a new season where the focus goes back onto every Uniting Church community with as much support as possible,” he said.

The Uniting Generations model will focus on building networks throughout the church. Local ‘champions’ will lead intergenerational ministry in their contexts, and share their experiences throughout the network. These champions don’t necessarily need formal training or education. They can be ministers, lay leaders, young people, retired people – basically anyone with a heart for intergenerational ministry.

“One thing the committee wanted to do was ensure that people understood that we didn’t mean we need people who are highly skilled at ministry with young people and between generations, but people who have a heart for it,” Luke said.

“It’s not somebody who is a superstar at it, but who wants to champion this kind of ministry.

“That’s not everybody’s passion and focus, but everybody has a part to play in it. So champions are needed to encourage everybody to get on board somehow.

“One of the main things of the model is a recognition that a lot of good intergenerational ministry is happening in Uniting Church communities already and that working together, networking, sharing, collaborating is not only a way to expand and grow this ministry across the church, but is actually the most effective way of growing these ministries.

“One or two paid staff can only do a limited amount themselves, even if they are based in local congregations, but an endless number of volunteers, ministers, pastors, voluntary ministry workers, can achieve a whole lot more when equipped and resourced to champion this from the ground.”

These champions will be resourced by a Ministry Agent(s), based at the Uniting Church Centre in Perth, and a full-time Support Officer – a position currently held by Janine McDonald.

One full-time position for a Uniting Generations Ministry Agent has been approved by the Presbytery, which could end up being one person working full-time, or two people working part-time.

“Their role, in a nutshell, will be to fuel those on the ground who want to champion intergenerational ministry,” Luke said.

“Effectively this person will be an encourager, will be a supporter, but also work as close as possible, not necessarily with whole communities of people who are engaged in some kind of intergenerational ministry, but with the champions who might need that bit of extra support and assistance in how to build intergenerational ministry in their contexts.

“There’s a lot of evidence out there to say that simply increasing staffing isn’t necessarily always the answer. We want to encourage local congregations to develop that kind of ministry, rather than simply trying to develop everything from the middle.”

The main difference between First Third Ministry and Uniting Generations, is that the Ministry Agents – or what used to be called First Third Specialists – will not be placed in specific congregations. Instead, the role of Ministry Agent will be to build collaboration and networking throughout the Presbytery with people engaged in intergenerational ministry.

“The old First Third model didn’t have as much capacity to reach wider because specialists had a more distinct focus on developing examples of quality intergenerational ministry in specific places.

“I believe this model is actually quite closely in line with the goals of those who pioneered the First Third concept ten years ago.

“In many ways it feels like a huge shift, but in some ways it’s actually a minor tweak.”

Presbytery-wide events such as Kids Camp Out (KCO) and the Deep End Camp will still take place, with the hope of more events to come out of the built network.

“Things that already existed both officially associated with First Third, but also things that are more associated with a particular congregation or community; none of that is going to change. The only thing we hope will
change is that more people will be engaged with more things as greater sharing and collaboration happens.”

Intergenerational ministry has a strong focus on working ‘with’ young people, not ‘for’. Learning is a two-way street.

“It’s not just about ministry to young people, but ministry ‘with’ young people to recognise that young people are the church right now, that they have a voice, but also have a responsibility to listen to the voices that have gone before them,” Luke said.

“There’s obviously a huge need to be thinking forward to a future where the church includes people who are currently under the age of 30, but in order for there to be a healthy church which is a true picture of what the kingdom of God is like, there needs to be all cultures, all generations, all tongues and all backgrounds.

“Generations learning from each other, working together and having a common vision and a common goal is firstly a picture of the kingdom of God, but the flow-on effect of that is a church that has a vibrant and hopeful future,” Luke said.

 

To find out more about the new Uniting Generations model of intergenerational
ministry, email unitinggenerations@wa.uca.org.au.

Heather Dowling

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