How Do We Bring the Generations Together?
Cory Seibel is a pastor at Central Baptist Church in Edmonton
As our congregations begin to emerge from the world of COVID, this moment provides us a fresh opportunity to reimagine what church life might look like moving forward. One question that is capturing the imagination of a growing number of churches is:
What would it look like for our church family to become more intentionally intergenerational?
The growing interest around this question was on full display recently during our online InterGenerate Conference 2021, an event dedicated to helping Christian leaders explore how to bring the generations together within the church. This gathering—co-hosted with our partners from the Children’s Spirituality Summit—brought together roughly 950 leaders from sixteen nations and forty different denominations. This turnout reflected the widespread hunger within the church to reframe how we’ve been accustomed to approaching ministry.
Of course, a big challenge lies in figuring out how to go about this. What do we do? Where do we begin? Every church that desires to become a flourishing intergenerational community of faith must wrestle with questions like these.
It is precisely for this reason that I am excited to share the recently released book, Engage All Generations, with readers. While I served as editor for this project, its great value lies in the wealth of insight it contains thanks to the two dozen authors who contributed to it. This group of seasoned ministry leaders and scholars are drawn from four different nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US) and an intriguing breadth of denominations. All are bound together by a shared passion for bringing the generations together within the church.
This book explores three overarching themes, each addressing a key dimension of how we can begin to get the generations engaged in experiencing intergenerational community together:
Learning and Growing Together: What benefit is there in bringing people of different ages together to grow in their faith? Engage All Generations includes several accessibly written and informative chapters that explore this question from biblical, theological, and social scientific perspectives. It also introduces a handful of time-tested, practical frameworks written by leaders who help us see where we might begin. Regardless of whether you’re just getting started or if your church has been experimenting with intergenerational ministry for some time, these chapters offer fresh vision about ways that the generations can learn and grow together.
Praying and Playing Together: When church leaders begin to contemplate intergenerational ministry, their minds often go quickly to Sunday worship. “How would we approach worship intergenerationally,” they may wonder. Several authors aid us in exploring this question. However, we also are encouraged to look beyond Sunday morning. One of this book’s most intriguing contributions comes in its chapters on the role of play in building intergenerational community. We discover that whether this occurs on the ball field or around the board game, good things happen when the generations take time to play together.
Leading and Changing Together: For leadership desiring to see their churches become more intentionally intergenerational, some of the toughest questions that arise focus on how to guide the process of change this requires. This can be challenging for leaders, especially those serving in churches accustomed to ministering to each generation separately. Engage All Generations includes several chapters from pastors, church coaches, and denominational leaders who share what they’ve learned through journeying with local churches through the process of change. They offer a lot of wisdom to leaders aiming to chart the way forward.
This is an intriguing moment in the life of the church. I’m eager to see some of the fresh ways that local congregations choose to seize the opportunity this moment provides. I believe that every church has the potential to grow as a thriving intergenerational community of faith. My prayer is that as we emerge from the world of COVID, a growing number of churches across Canada will discover new ways to engage all generations in learning and growing, praying and playing, and leading and changing together.
Cory Seibel is a pastor at Central Baptist Church in Edmonton and a research fellow for the Department of Missional Theology at the University of the Free State in South Africa. He has edited two books, The Generative Church and Engage All Generations, and currently chairs the InterGenerate Conference leadership team.
What We Are Reading
The Soul of the City
Dr. Len Hjalmarson
Because the focus and emphasis of Flourishing Congregations Institute is the Canadian context, a book such as The Soul of the City is particularly appropriate. The reason for this is underscored in the subtitle, “Mapping the Spiritual Geography of Eleven Canadian Cities.” For any congregation or parish to flourish it is essential to have a solid understanding and appreciation of the context in which it is found. Edited by Leonard Hjalmarson, this work provides an insightful and well-researched glimpse into eleven major cities from coast to coast. As a part of the series entitled Urban Mission in the 21st Century, this work addresses some of the key issues encountered by those involved in a variety of urban ministries.
What becomes clear in reading this book is that there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” paradigm for urban ministry even within the Canadian context. Each city has what the authors refer to as its own ‘spiritual geography.’ Yet there are some shared theological and social frameworks that are essential to understanding the context in which we minister. The contributors represent a variety of ecclesiological traditions and approaches to the challenge of understanding the soul of the city. Although it was never intended to be exhaustive in scope, a read of this work fosters a deeper appreciation for our variegated Canadian culture.
Rev. Dr. Bill McAlpine, Professor Emeritus, Ambrose University
Resources for Church Leaders
Master Class on Canadian Indigenous Realities and the Canadian Church with Ray Aldred
Every second Wednesday, Sept 22nd – Dec 1st
3:00 – 4:30pm (MST)
The Residential School tragedy highlights the need for senior church leaders to examine the Church’s prevailing Indigenous perspectives and practices. This course aims at helping build a healthy respect for Indigenous identity as “other”, neither vilifying or idealizing, but seeking to become an ally.
Throughout this six-class course, you’ll explore the topics of Indigenous religion and spirituality (Indigenizing theology); treaties, both ancient and contemporary (Indigenous Story and Land and the role of preaching); a brief history of the interaction between the Church and Indigenous Peoples (The Indigenous Christ); finally, the history of reconciliation in Canada (Indigenous conceptions of identity and evangelism). Through this, you’ll develop a healthy respect for Indigenous Peoples to help build a climate of collaboration within your life and community. Register Here.
Resources for Safer Church Re-Opening
Want to increase confidence in your congregation and community; to increase your knowledge; and to share what you've learned over the past year?
Join Dr. Bridget Stirling (epidemiologist and former missionary), a team of public health specialists, and church leaders from around the world in the ARCC.
The Application to Reduce Communicable Diseases in Churches (ARCC) is a program that increases safety through Risk self-assessments and guidance, church-specific training and an interactive forum. Visit us at stirlingharmston.com
Researching the Impacts of Covid-19 on Congregations
Several research studies are emerging on the impacts of Covid-19 on congregations. Click Here to learn from these data-driven insights.