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Intergenerationality: What Does This Mean?

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Published by Josh Hosler on Monday, November 29, 2021 9:55 AM
Intergenerationality: What Does This Mean?

The Inherent Joy of Intergenerationality
A guiding document for a made-up word
From the vestry of the Church of the Good Shepherd
Created by Alisa Johnson and the Rev. Josh Hosler, September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our ability to provide a welcome place for children and youth, and it has driven many of our elders into deep isolation. Nobody is having an easy time, but the primary concerns vary by generation. Congregations that survive this ordeal will be those that not only take care of their own people, but also look outward to help take care of their communities. And faith communities have something special to offer in these frightening times: specific ways for the various generations to love one another.

We believe that the need is greater now than ever before to live into the Holy Spirit’s call to be the Church for people of every age. The purpose of this document is to help our congregation begin to explore and understand what it means to become more intentionally intergenerational.

Intergenerational Conversation Starters

These questions are intended to be usable in workshops and in small groups.

  • If you have come to us from some other Christian tradition, talk about the relationships between children and adults in your former church. How were programs for children managed? What were the assumptions? Have you noticed anything different in the Episcopal Church?
  • If you raised children in church, how do you feel about that experience now? What would you do differently? What is your children’s relationship with the church now? How do they talk about their experiences in church?
  • If you were a child and/or a teenager in the Episcopal Church, who were the adults who meant the most to you (outside your own family)? Why?
  • If you were a young adult in the Episcopal Church, how did you come to understand yourself as an adult member of the church (or not)?
  • If you would describe yourself as an elder, talk about your current relationships with children and youth in our congregation.
    • Which of our children do you know best? Do you know their current age?
    • Do they know your name? What do they know about you?
    • What do you want to be sure younger people in the church learn?
    • How will you know that you have made a lasting difference to the younger people of Good Shepherd?
  • Talk about a relationship you have with another Good Shepherd member of a different generation. Other than your age, what’s one indication that you definitely come from a different generation? What do you have in common in spite of that?
  • Imagine a congregation with no children. What qualities is it missing? How must it function differently from a congregation with children?
  • Imagine a congregation in which everyone is under 50. What qualities is it missing? How must it function differently from a congregation with elders?

An Intergenerational Vision

These truths may not all be self-evident, but they are tried and tested and can help us come to a deeper understanding of our work.

  • Worship is primary faith formation for all ages. In situations where formation programming is not possible, liturgy is a sufficient core for our ongoing learning.
  • “Intergenerational” doesn’t just mean “inclusive of children.” But this is often the most crucial need, because children grow up quickly. Elders may occasionally misplace a year; children rarely misplace a week.
  • All generations can learn from one another.
  • Sunday worship is not individual meditation time, but community time. If a generation of people is missing from the Eucharist, we are impoverished.
  • It takes intention and effort for elders to respect young people. This means working to know and understand each individual young person over and over again as they age.
  • Most young people today have little connection with religion. But we believe that the Holy Spirit is active in present-day cultural and national conversations, and that these are worthy to be brought into the church for discussion.
  • Intergenerational work will often take place outside church walls, including such spaces as our extended families, workplaces, civic life, and online communities.
  • We are never finished learning. Every Christian should expect to be in formation for life.

Three Potential Approaches

How might we act more intergenerational? One or more of these ways may be a great start.

  • We use the regular events of church life, including the church calendar, mission projects, prayer practices, etc. as places to be intentionally intergenerational.
  • We infuse intergenerationality not only into events, but also into existing practices and structures.
  • We create new experiences together that connect people of multiple generations.

Hoped-for Outcomes of an Intergenerational Approach

What will most likely happen as a result of intentionally intergenerational work?

  • Strengthening Christian identity
  • Deepening relationships and community
  • Ongoing learning and growth
  • Collaborating and equipping leadership
  • Sharing wisdom across generations

Some Resources

10 steps to increasing intergenerationality

Intergenerational worship

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