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Posts Tagged ‘intergenerational church’

'Retired teacher with grandchild / Insegnante in pensione con nipotina' photo (c) 2013, Matteo Bagnoli - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/One of my missions is to challenge the assumption that small congregations have little or nothing to offer children.  Here are some more thoughts about how a healthy, loving small church can be a great blessing to families with children. There are good reasons for choosing a small church for your children’s sake. If you become involved with this kind of congregation,

•    Your children will have a nurturing extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who will truly be interested in them, encourage them, attend their sports events and performances, and celebrate their milestones. My daughter describes the senior generation at our church as her “grandfriends.”
•    Your children will learn how to follow Jesus from observing adult disciples of Jesus, knowing them well, and serving actively alongside them. For the rest of their lives, your children will remember these role models in faith.
•    Your children’s concerns will be taken very seriously. The pastor has time to spend with your children and can get to know each child personally.
•    Your children’s talents will be welcomed and appreciated. What better place, for example, for a young musician to make his or her debut than in the midst of the gracious circle of a small church?
•    Through ongoing relationships, your children and older adults will enrich one another’s lives and learn how to love and care faithfully for one another over the long haul of life.

I sometimes hear people say that they want their children to go to church with a large group of children. While it may be more exciting and more fun to be around a lot of children their own age, school, scouting, sports teams, and other programs meet that social need well. What is rare in today’s society is the opportunity for different generations to mix and become one people in life and mission together. In today’s world people of different ages and life stages are stratified and lead largely separate lives. They even live in separate communities. Congregations are often stratified in the same way. Intergenerational small congregations offer a much-needed alternative that challenges everyone–younger, older, and in-between–to love each other as neighbors.

If you are looking for a church for your family, don’t just automatically drive past a small church. Stop in and take time to get to know the people.   Give them a chance to bless you and your children.  You may find that God has led you home.

You may also be interested in these posts:

Mr. Rogers, children, and the small church…

Small Church Children: Growing Up in the Arms of the Saints

How One Family Ended Up Choosing A Small Church

 

Click on Children in the Church in the sidebar for more links.

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Hootie2Some people see a preponderance of older people–who often have gray hair–in a congregation, as a liability and a turn-off.   Having known and loved so many gray-haired saints, and now being gray-haired myself, I see their presence as an asset and a gift to the church.  I was delighted to come across an article by someone who agrees.  It’s entitled “The Gift of Gray Hairs,” and the author is Diane Roth, a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota.  I resonated as she described scenes like the following:

“There is a teenage young woman who sits at worship every Sunday with an older retired woman and her friends.  The young woman is training as a singer:  she sang “Pie Jesu” at our Good Friday Service.  The older women recently gave her a gift:  a number of opera librettos.

“After worship, one day, one of our young parents was in tears.  I had announced the death of one of our older members that morning.  I checked in with the young woman, concerned about why she was crying.  “I’m sad about Pearl,” she said.  Pearl used to sit near their family and interacted with her children nearly every Sunday.”

The author notes three ways in particular in which older adults can enrich the life of a congregation:

1. Mature faith and a lifetime of stories to tell about what living out that faith means in all kinds of situations.

2. Older adults often have a sense of clarity about what is truly important and can be more willing to let go of sacred cows than many younger folk.

3.  Younger people need the experience of being around older people and all the realities that often accompany living a long life, such as coping with frailty.  If we are blessed with a long life, that’s where we will be one day.

My ideal church has people of all ages in it, with people loving and learning cross-generationally.  We can bless one another!  I don’t think it is healthy for the generations to live segregated lives.  So many institutions in society segregate us.  We find the young in school, and we find the old in retirement communities.  The church is just about the only place in society where young and old can be in close relationship with one another.  Moreover, it’s not difficult for younger people to find friends their own age.  What’s more difficult is for them to have the opportunity to know older adults well, since in contemporary society, extended families often live many miles apart and young and old don’t interact as often as they once did.

I hope as I get older that younger people will still want to be friends with me, and will still want to be around me.  I hope I will have the opportunity to bless many, many younger people before I join the Church Triumphant.

Helen

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'mema papa kids 2' photo (c) 2007, kindergentler2001 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/My small church pastor colleague Steve Willis recently published a piece in The Presbyterian Outlook in which he questions the wisdom and sensitivity of the line, “This is not your grandfather’s church.”  You can read it here.  He writes, “isn’t the whole point of those witnessing to the grace of Jesus Christ to emphasize and make clear that all people are welcome and all people have a place and all people belong to God?  Surely there is a better way to name the changing realities of our world and church than by making grandpa wonder if he is really included.”

As one who dreams of a multigenerational church, and as one whose peers are becoming grandparents, and as one who hopes to be a grandma someday, I add my hearty “Amen!”

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