My InterGenerate Story: Karen DeBoer

I used to think that being an intergenerational church meant replacing Sunday school with an intergenerational curriculum or adding a monthly all-ages event to the church calendar. What I’ve come to understand is that there is a big difference between “doing” intergenerational and “becoming” intergenerational.  Programs are important; through them, relationships are often formed, but being an intergenerational church is about belonging.

The denomination to which I belong practices infant baptism, but there are times when we also experience the joy of witnessing the baptism of a child, teen or adult who has come to follow Jesus. Such was the case with Vivian, a young adult in our congregation.

On the day of Vivian’s baptism, the pastor invited her to come forward and tell the congregation her story. Everyone - babies to retirees - was present and she had our full attention as she shared how growing up in Hong Kong she had been enrolled in a Christian school by her unbelieving parents and how years later, after moving to Canada, her faith was nurtured in the relationship she had with her boyfriend and through the friendships she’d made with older adults in our congregation. It was a powerful story of God at work.

And now it was time to celebrate God’s faithfulness through the sacrament of baptism. Vivian and the pastor had decided that this milestone called for a big visual so rather than sprinkling water from the baptismal bowl over Vivian’s head, the pastor planned to pour water from a pitcher. What happened next took my breath away.

“Kids! We need your help!” said the pastor. “I’ve got a tarp to cover the floor. Can some of your spread it out?” Several kids rushed forward and began unrolling the tarp. “Who can get the towels? Can you carry the table to the tarp and put the bowl of water and the towels on it? And can you stand all around the tarp and hold it in place?” And they did. With smiles and giggles and amazement, they did it all.

With wide eyes, they watched with the rest of God’s family - their family, the church - as the pastor picked up the pitcher of water, poured it over Vivian’s head and baptized her in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Then the pastor invited all those who wished to do so to surround Vivian and to pray for her. The children moved in tighter and were joined by young and old. Just before the prayer began I saw 5-year-old Nathan look up at Vivian and whisper, “May I hold your hand?”

The following week during Sunday school - one of my favorite places to form relationships with the children in my church - I asked if anyone could remember the special thing that had happened the previous Sunday. “Yes!” said Meaghan, “We baptized Vivian!”

Being an intergenerational church is about shaping a culture in which all ages belong and are known and have opportunities to learn and grow, serve and worship together.

At InterGenerate, I’ll be facilitating a workshop on storytelling. I’m looking forward to telling some stories, but mostly I’m looking forward to hearing stories and learning from the experiences of those who will be attending the conference: people from a variety of denominations who have been at work forming an intergenerational culture in their own church, those who have been researching intergenerational faith formation practices, those who have just begun to dream about what it might look like to be more intentionally intergenerational in their context. People like you.

See you there.

My InterGenerate Story: Liz Perraud

One of my first experiences in church was singing in the choir. I was about nine years old, not much of a singer but I liked to sing and I loved church. It wasn’t a children’s choir but just the choir, in the small church where I attended Sunday school. I wasn’t brave enough to invite myself so someone must have asked me to participate. I remember that I felt important and I felt equal to the adults—with my robe and my music notebook, just like their robes and music notebooks. 

My sons were raised in a LOGOS ministry in a church where they formed strong relationships--not just with peers but with adults as well. Each Wednesday evening for over ten years, they had Bible study teachers, recreation leaders, worship arts directors, and two “table parents” helping them learn and practice the Christian faith. Each summer in high school they spent a week at the GenOn Youth Summit in deep and impactful Christian community. Growing up, they were surrounded by lots of adults who, in addition to their parents, loved them as children of God and taught them to love all others as children of God too. 

Generation after generation passing on the faith. Generation with generation learning and practicing the faith. It’s what I’ve devoted my life’s work to, and I get just as charged up about why it works as I do about how it works. 

That’s why a conference like InterGenerate is thrilling to me! It is not just academics presenting researched theory and it is not just practitioners presenting proven models. It’s both.

I’ve been waiting for this conference since Holly Allen brought the idea to GenOn when it was just a dream, seeking our interest and participation. We are honored to be a sponsor and so deeply involved in the planning with Program Director Suzie Lane and board member Shirley Carlson on the task force. Holly also serves on the GenOn Board of Directors and leads InterGenerate and the planning of the conference. 

I look forward to seeing you there! 

Liz Perraud is executive director of GenOn Ministries, a sponsor of the InterGenerate Conference. 

My InterGenerate Story: Olivia Bryan Updegrove

I do not want to go to another “conference.” I want to go to an experience where I can engage with practitioners and academics beyond, “We have five minutes for questions.” I want to build relationships that will last beyond a quick “after session” conversation.

Intergenerate is limited in its number of participants so that those sitting next to you can also inspire you as much as those in front of you. We are working to make sure that those in front of you have ways to sit beside you, and together we create a foundation that can bring ways for God to work at all ages and stages of life across many denominations. 

Intergenerate is ministry in its simplest and most profound form. It is a call to be God’s community in intentional, inclusive, and relational ways. 

Intergenerate will have new voices, experienced voices, inspired voices, and your voice. You will leave with lots of information and ideas, but most importantly, you will leave with new people working alongside you as we all seek to be the church, together. 

I can’t wait to hear you voice! Join us!

 

My InterGenerate story: Holly Allen

I first glimpsed the significance of cross-generational Christian practices when my family and I joined a church plant that met weekly in intergenerational small groups. At the time our children were 7, 9, and 16, and we worshiped with that church for four years. My experiences in those intergenerational groups changed my understanding of children and my perspective on Christian spiritual formation for children and adults; ultimately these new perceptions led me to change my career.

However, I hadn’t realized the impact those groups had on my children (now young adults) until a few years ago when our daughter, Bethany, was visiting with us when I spoke about intergenerationality at a gathering of church leaders. One of the church leaders asked Bethany about her memories in the small groups. This is what she said:

It was so natural, sitting with everyone in our intergenerational small groups. I felt like I belonged, like we all belonged there; age wasn’t a factor. We’d all sing songs, and pray, and do a fun ice-breaker, and I participated on every level. Sometimes, the group leader would ask me to choose a song, or would ask me a particular question, like maybe how I felt about a certain verse or story in the Bible, and everyone listened to my response. I felt important, like what I had to say mattered. I remember so many of the adults in my small groups, and they were my friends, not just my parents’ friends. I remember listening to them talk about what was going on in their lives, or what new insights they’d had recently about God, and I felt a sense of intimacy.

I knew from the beginning that the groups were powerful and life-changing, but Bethany’s touching tribute to their influence in her life affirmed this conviction in me.

I am looking forward to the conference next summer, when dozens of other committed intergenerationalists (I may have just coined a new word) will share their understandings and experiences—and even their research—regarding fresh, new intergenerational Christian practices. Come join the conversation!