My InterGenerate Story: Linda Staats

I was 19 years old and a campus ministry student when asked to lead my small congregation’s VBS. Although I was a faithful VBS participant and helper growing up, I had no idea how to go about organizing one. The thought of any one person being solely responsible for multiple kids - was scary! (My academic plans did not include becoming a teacher…) I decided then and there that if kids were involved, parents and other caregivers would be fully participating too. Following the event, I remember adults and kids asking, “When can we do this again?” 

I have heard this question repeatedly in my 40 plus years of facilitating Intergenerational Ministry. I am continually in awe of the Holy Spirit’s stirring when generations are brought together. I often wonder, “Why are Cross+Gen gatherings still the exception rather than the rule?”

Peter Benson’s words in the book All Kid Are My Kids (1997) have become the foundation for my own persistent and loud rallying cry when working with congregations, “As a community of faith, you possess a vast, untapped potential to bring generations together to accompany one another through life’s milestones and in the mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, at home and away from home!” 

I am delighted that the InterGenerate Conference will address both the “why” and the “how” - offering both academic and practical tools for honoring and utilizing the mix and breath of ages, wonder and wisdom within each of our own faith communities. I am confident that through your participation in this conference, your ministry will be strengthened at every level, with new insights on how to weave the gifts of every generation into the very fabric of your faith community. 

The greatest lesson I have learned in my personal faith journey is that God is a God of surprises. My 1930’s house is filled with items that belonged to generations that came before me. Every possession has a story! One closet contains the books I read to our two young sons, imagining some day reading to my grandchildren as I held them in my arms, while sitting in their great-great grandma’s rocking chair. Yet, this 68-year-old woman who grew up with 8 loving, “meddling” grandparents, all who lived within 14 miles of my home, and whose passion and life’s ministry is “generations” – has no grandchildren. 

Instead, my life has been enriched in ways I could have never imagined. Two young adults in Kenya call me their “Grand-Mum!” On my 60th birthday I had the joy of coordinating the multi-age interaction and care for 65 children, ages 3-10 from around the world at my denomination’s Global Mission Event. Last fall, children at a congregation where I was a guest, laid hands on me and blessed me. I felt the warmth of their hands and hearts for hours. I have had the privilege of walking beside youth in the judicatories where I have worked, and they in turn have motivated me and inspired me. 

I have discovered that investing in generational ministry means viewing one another through God’s eyes in a “cross+formed,” grace-filled way of life that goes beyond boundaries of age or stage, familial relationships, bloodlines and households. 

Along with helping host the InterGenerate Conference as a member of the planning team, I will be offering a workshop on “Cross+Generational Engagement: Accompanying One Another in Ministry and Mission.”  Generational ministry seen through the lens of accompaniment infuses generational ministry with a new perspective and deepened sense of urgency. We have an opportunity to crisscross and connect the borders between the generations right where we are, in our own congregation and households – and into all the world. 

I look forward to hearing God’s story in your story, as you share and engage in the InterGenerate Conference. See you in Nashville!