Intergenerational Ministry

The model for youth ministry used to be to segment youth off to their own part of the church, often the attic or the basement, and allow them to run wild – with the few adults who were thought to be fun, young, or unknowingly accepted. Although I grew up in a youth ministry like this and turned out okay, this tactic didn’t often work because it kept youth away from mentors, models, and family.

A new family model of youth ministry includes intentional time with peers as well as other generations. Integrated curriculum, family meals, and table time are ways that churches are bringing youth and adults together. Although one could argue that this intergenerational ministry is a fad, there is evidence to support it’s success in making church-going adults out of youth.

Young people, especially those who grow up in divided, divorced, or unchurched families need positive mentors. Even those kids (who are rapidly becoming the minority) who have supportive, loving, present, healthy, and church-going parents need more adults to model the faith.

But how do we do this? How do we get youth and adults in the same room at the same time. They like different things, speak a different language, and have different music preferences. I would argue that youth and adults are not nearly as different as some would claim. While there are definitely times where it is appropriate to split youth, adults, and children, the church needs to seek more opportunities for adults, youth, and children of all ages to serve in ministry together.

Here are some intergenerational ministry ideas happening in UMCs in our area:

  • Technology night – have youth and older adults come together and allow the youth to teach the older folks how to use their phones, iPads, computers, or other technological devices. Youth can share how to set up Facebook, text, take pictures, or simply e-mail.
  • Roundtable Dinners – Wednesday night dinners are a staple in many churches. Have youth and adults intentionally mix it up and sit with each other. Have table questions available to encourage discussion. Make the questions easy and story-producing.
  • Service days – Youth are often volunteered to rake leaves, paint, and do other odd jobs for the congregation. While this can be incredible ministry, it’s also important for youth to see adults serving. Schedule a day for your entire church to get together and serve with each other. Whether at a soup kitchen, sorting clothes, or just a simple work-day around the church, it’s important for youth to serve with their church family.
  • Game Nights – While older adults might not be comfortable playing video games, have a night where teens teach how to play the Wii. Perhaps it’s a trivia game vs. a dancing game. Likewise, teens might not see the value in learning dominoes, but they would have a really good time if they were taught.

How does your church intentionally mix adults and youth together? How does your older congregation provide a model for long-term church involvement? How do adults share a depth of theology to youth?

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