Embracing intergenerational ministry

Dr Holly Catterton Allen is a leading academic researcher, author and teacher in the field of intergenerational ministry. In July this year, she spoke at the two-day ‘Embracing Intergenerational  Ministry Workshop’ at the Centre of Theology and Ministry, Uniting Church Victoria and Tasmania. A group of six from the Presbytery of WA travelled to Melbourne to attend.

The ecumenical event included representation from the Church of Christ, the Salvation Army, the Baptist Church, the Anglican Church and the Uniting Church, with both lay and ordained leaders in attendance. Holly was also the speaker at conferences in Adelaide and Sydney.

Intergenerational ministry is far more than worship and it’s far more than being just for children. It is about people across the generations doing life together; all benefitting, all giving and  receiving and all being valued equally.

In their book, Intergenerational Christian Formation, authors Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton write, “Intergenerational ministry occurs when a congregation intentionally combines the generations together in mutual serving, sharing, or learning within the core activities of the church in order to live out being the body of Christ to each other and the greater community.”

In her latest book, InterGenerate: Transforming Churches through Intergenerational Ministry, Holly writes that Intergenerational ministry intentionally seeks to foster interaction between distinct age groups and generations in a variety of contexts.

Susan King from Trinity North Uniting Church attended the workshop.

“A truth that came home to me and certainly a confirmation of my own spiritual journey was that intergenerational ministry is about building and deepening intergenerational relationships,  especially in our own church settings,” she said.

Intergenerational ministry strategically creates opportunities for generations to interact for a specific purpose: Christian spiritual formation.

“Intergenerational formation is not the final goal – spiritual maturity is,” Susan said.

Rhonda Tilbrook from All Saints Floreat Uniting Church also attended and said, “The fact that not all age groups need to be together for intergenerational ministry to take place, for example mutual engagement across two or more generations, struck a chord for me.”

Julie Ridden from Nedlands Uniting Church said intergenerational ministry is about walking together in faith.

“I liked Dr Allen’s focus on spiritual faith formation. Intergenerational activities assist church members to grow in their relationship with Jesus, not just their knowledge of Jesus. It is about walking together, being a mentor and a mentee. It is discipling one another. It is acknowledging that we can all learn from each other no matter what age or stage we are at,” Julie said.

“I really appreciated Dr Allen going into all the ‘whys’, particularly from an academic angle. She was able to demonstrate that there is a wide body of documented evidence, not only within the  church, but within other disciplines such as education, psychology and sociology, to support the need for the different generations to work together. One of the key benefits is developing a  culture that continues into the future. We are at a point in time where the Western church is in decline, so developing a ‘sticky faith’ is a good thing.”

Intergenerational ministry understands that age-specific programing compliments a church or ministry’s commitment to intergenerational ministry.

“Having planned, intentional intergenerational ministry does not mean that all activities need to be intergenerational. There is still a place and purpose for age related groups. But we should be making a commitment to explore different ways that different age groups can come together to grow in their faith,” Julie said.

Janine McDonald

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