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!