He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.” He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.”
– Mark 9:35-37 MSG
Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
– Psalm 145:4
“Faith growth can’t happen when a person only interacts with people of their same age.”
– Rev. Melissa Cooper, LEC Family
We need each other; as uncomfortable and down-right annoying as it can be, this is a truth that I believe is at the core of the Gospel, and at the core of the message of Scripture. We were created in community and love, for community and love. What this means is that we need: different views, different cultures, and different generations in order to more fully live into our call as a church and as a people who bring about the Kingdom of God. I also believe that, going along with Rev. Melissa’s quote from above, we can’t fully know God (as much as we can know God) unless we know people different than us. I know that for some this is a challenge even within our closest of family. We often struggle connecting to grandchildren and their cellphones or uncles from the other side of the political spectrum. To engage persons different than us can be exhausting. But as is the case with anything that is important to us or we believe to be important, in order to make it work, we have to get creative, and come at it in a posture of humility and grace (not judgment).
I’ve been thinking about this in particular as it pertains to intergenerational ministry. I don’t know about you, but I have been blessed and encouraged by the children in our midst. The ‘new’ children that have been attending worship regularly and participating in our Thursday Fresh Expression, or peeking their heads in during special services, children who are from around our community, are the fruits of our more intentionally joining God in the work of relationships around our neighborhood. It has brought me great joy to greet children on Sunday mornings and to hear them tell me that they have come “To worship God!” and that they couldn’t wait to get up that morning because Children’s Church was beginning that day. Even in those somewhat brief interactions I am reminded of a pure faith and a passion for God. I think Jesus was on to something when he talked about the Kingdom belonging to children. Imagine what else we could learn from these children!
The truth is, however, that they need us too. When I say we need one another I mean that they need us and we need them. The future of the church depends on the next generations, there is no doubt about that. But in addition to that, if we believe what we do about the message of God’s amazing grace and about the miraculous power of the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church), what we are offering these children is a sense of belonging, of joy, of forgiveness, and redemption. I believe and have lived the power of older saints pouring into young lives through their time, patience and wisdom. Part of the message of the Church is that we all have something to offer and we have different things to offer.
What does this mean? I want you to get involved, if you’re not already, in intergenerational ministry. What this means is that I want you to first of all pray. Pray for the children in our midst and for those yet to come. Pray regularly and intentionally. If you can greet them on Sundays or Thursday and learn their names — pray for them by name. Pray that they may know the love of God in their lives. Pray that they may experience the beauty of the Body of Christ. Pray for their families. If you are able, I also want you to explore being a volunteer. If you are able and have a knack with kids, ask about helping with Children’s Church on Sundays or coming out for a bit on Thursday afternoons or during our monthly Friday movie nights, or spending a week helping in the summer with VBS. If you are unable or not suited to do these, as ask those involved how you can support them. Sometimes a note of encouragement, an extra hug or prayer goes a long way. Sometimes we’re in need of practical things that maybe you can source. Don’t assume that if you can’t help with your presence and body that you can’t help at all. And finally, pray some more.
“Jesus’ vision for intergenerational relationships was anything but cute. It was and is both radical and revolutionary.”— Kara E. Powell, Sticky Faith. As I mentioned earlier, it won’t always be nice, pretty and comfortable to do intergenerational work. Pray for love to invade our hearts in such a way that we are committed to doing the hard work, the life-giving work, the sometimes slow to produce work of relationships. I am filled with gratitude at the ways God is at work and at the ways that this congregations is supporting and longs to support the work of God’s Kingdom in Tice. Keep it up! The best of it is God is with us.