UMC Reflections on Intergenerational Ministry

Note: This article, written by Rev. Dr. Tanya Marie Eustace Campen comes from a resource published by Discipleship Ministries in 2016.

Intergenerational Ministry

Ministry that affirms all people’s joint-participation in God’s work in and for the transformation of the world.

Why Intergenerational Ministry?

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” ~Ephesians 4:16

hands Intergenerational Ministry (IG Ministry) is an intrinsic part of our identity and calling. It is a wholistic approach to sharing the good news that affirms how all people, no matter their age, are created, called, and equipped for ministry. God calls people of all ages to show up, live, and work in the world. IG ministry affirms and invites faithful members of the body to participate in God’s holy work recognizing who God created them to be and claiming what God calls them to do.

reaching out

Time and time again, Scripture reminds us of our identity (who God created us to be) and our call (what God calls us to do). In Genesis we learn that we are created very good and we hear that we have responsibilities and work to do. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, our identity and call is affirmed, modeled, and proclaimed as we hear Christ’s call to “make disciples of all nations.” We are told to remember that we do not do it alone- “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

body-of-christ

One Body… many gifts

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 reminds us that there are many parts of the body and that each part is important. As Christians we affirm that we are one body with many gifts and that all gifts come from God. Each of these gifts are building blocks that help build the Kingdom. The book of Ephesians affirms this idea reminding us how the Body is strengthened when all parts are working together. When all of God’s children join together and contribute their gifts, then the body grows and builds “itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16). We are strengthened in our ministry when all people use their gifts and participate in God’s work for the transformation of the world. The body of Christ is made stronger when each person is present and is contributing to the work of the kingdom.

in the UMC church we affirm the importance of every person- no matter their age, no matter where they come from. Every person is a child of God, every person is called, equipped, and sent forth for the work of the kingdom. This is affirmed in the Sacrament of baptism where the congregation proclaims: “We are all one in Christ Jesus- with joy and thanksgiving we welcome you as members of the family of Christ.” In this response members of the body affirm that the body is one and that all members are part of the family of Christ. This baptismal covenant affirms our doctrinal and theological understanding of Prevenient Grace- the belief that God is actively present in the lives of all people. Intergenerational Ministry affirms this theological assertion and proclaims that when someone is missing from the community God’s gifts and God’s presence are missing too.

 As United Methodists our “why” to ministry is summarized in our mission statement:

The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-  making occurs (2012 Book of Discipline, Paragraph 120).

This is a universal call. The Book of Discipline does not say all persons 35 and older, or people of like minds, backgrounds, or developmental levels. This is an intergenerational mission statement-one that applies to the entire church.

The rationale for this mission statement is found in following paragraph:

 God’s grace is active everywhere, at all times, carrying out this purpose as revealed in the Bible…In order to truly be alive, we embrace Jesus’ mandate to love God and to love our neighbor and to make disciples of all peoples. (2012 Book of Discipline, Paragraph 121).

God’s grace is active“ in all people- young, old, and somewhere in between. Every person is equipped and called. God breathed life into us and calls us to live- loving God and neighbor; making disciples of all peoples.

Scripture proclaims that we are all important, theology affirms that God is actively present in all of our lives, and developmental theory demonstrates how persons learn and grow in community.  While all persons are capable of learning things individually, persons often learn quicker or pick up harder skills, when someone else teaches them.  Intergenerational Ministry affirms the importance of learning, growing, and living in community.  When persons of all ages are gathered there is space to share, teach, guide, and pass down the stories and practices of our faith. Persons learn from one another when they are invited into an intergenerational community. This is how the Christian faith continues to be shared. There are gifts that children and youth bring that teach, shape, and form adults, and there are gifts that adults bring that can teach and nurture children and youth.

Why intergenerational ministry? Because- it reflects who we are and what we are called to do. God creates, calls, and equips all people for work in the Kingdom. Intergenerational Ministry is the church’s faithful response to God’s call for all people to participate in the transformation of the world. This is what it means to be alive- using the gifts God has given each persons to offer hope to a hurting world and to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Wondering together

I wonder…

  •  What gifts God has given you to help strengthen the body of Christ and transform the world?
  • Where you see intergenerational ministry happening in your context?
  • Who feels welcome in your community?
  • What challenges intergenerational ministry reveals?
  • What joys intergenerational ministry brings?

Practical Application

This week, take time to: start a listening campaign

  • Pay Attention:  Watch and take notes of where you see people of all generations gathering together?

  • Wonder: Are these gatherings forced, or are they naturally occurring in your community?
  • Listen: Take time to wonder with your community. Ask them to share their answers to the wondering questions provided above.
  • Give Thanks: Spend time in prayer with your family/friends/community, giving thanks for the many gifts in your community. Ask God to help you all see how those gifts can be used to strengthen the body of Christ for the transformation of the world.
  • Respond:  Invite people to join you in a listening and visioning campaign where you will discern how God is calling your entire community into faithful ministry.

2016 Christian Home Month Resource (now available)

Christian Home Month 2016

Families Called to Hope

The 2016 Christian Home Month resource is for family ministry leaders, ministry teams, and council chairpersons/coordinators in local congregations. It is designed to help local congregations develop and strengthen faith in the home and to celebrate Christian Home Month. Although Christian Home Month is typically celebrated during the month of May, congregations may choose any month of the year to focus on the Christian home and its key role as a center for faith formation.

Our theme for 2016 is Families Called to Hope. We live in a tumultuous time; the television news, Internet, and other forms of media inundate us with images and stories of violence, political controversy, inequality, and hate. It seems that sin, violence, and corruption surround us and take all the joy out of living. We have much to fear. Yet, we know that as Christians we are called to be a people of hope. We hope for a better world where everyone will feel and experience God’s love, peace, justice, and grace.

This downloadable PDF includes worship service resources, a retreat plan, and devotional activities for families as they foster a spirit of hope in their homes. We trust that you will find something in this resource that will inspire, encourage, and affirm you as you continue in this important work to which you are called.

DOWNLOAD the 2016 Christian Home Month planning resource [PDF]

Lent starts tomorrow…

are you and your family ready?

lent-spiritual-preparation

The season of Lent, a 40-day journey, provides the church an awesome opportunity to turn toward God as we prepare our hearts for the mystery of Easter. During Lent, it is important for us to model appropriate disciplines that help children understand the meaning of this time of preparation.

Check out these tools, resources, and weekly family devotionals:

https://umc-intergenerational-ministry.com/lent/

Advent Week 2: Blessing one another on the journey

Journey-Mission-Road

Advent is here… and the journey has begun.

As we prepare our own hearts and homes for the mystery of Christmas, we are called to remember the Holy Family- Mary and Joseph alongside a donkey- who made the long journey to Bethlehem together. As we picture the Holy Family- Joseph leading the donkey, Mary sometimes riding and sometimes walking- we recognize the difficulty that comes when we make a long journey. And we, like the Holy Family, move forward in HOPE. Hope for all that is promised in the gift of the Christ child.

As I write this, I wonder:

– What do you hope for?

– What do your children hope for?

– What does the Christ child represent for you?

reaching outLast year, I was challenged by my colleague, Taylor Burton-Edwards, by his call for the church to turn towards each other during this time of Advent: This is a time when adults should turn their hearts to children and children should turn their hearts to adults. In response to Taylor’s words, I found myself asking:

How are we turning our hearts to children and how are we creating a space for and inviting children to turn their hearts towards us?

During this season of advent, we run around- buying gifts, preparing meals, hosting and attending parties, etc. Facebook is full of people sharing their anxiety and stress created by this season. It seems there is so much to do, so little time, and it all can be very overwhelming. It is indeed the season of giving- and yet, as I hear the question, “How are we turning our hearts towards children and inviting   children to turn their hearts to us,” I wonder:

  • When do we stop to look in the eyes of the person we are giving a gift to?
  • How often do we take time to pay attention and listen to the person sitting across from us at the dinner table or the one we find ourselves chatting with at a Christmas party?
  • What would it look like if we took the time to look into the eyes of another, to take their hands in ours, and to offer them a blessing saying: “God loves you and God is with you- I hope you know Christ’s love and feel Christ’s peace during this season of advent.”

A common Filipino tradition to show respect towards elders is called pagmamano. The word mano stems from the Spanish
meaning for hand and pagmamano is the act of either kissing an elder’s hand or raising their hand to touch your forehead.
This act is often done as a greeting or farewell to the elders of the house. By doing it, you are asking for their blessing as well as blessing them.

Advent is here… and the journey has begun. God is calling us to turn towards each other and to journey together towards Bethlehem. This week I want to invite you to take time to bless your children, your friends and family, members of your community, and strangers who you might meet during this advent season.

This can be done through acts of service, compassion, and justice. We live in a hurting world that is crying out for God’s beloved creation to stand up and do something. We are called to bring God’s light into this broken world. This season of getting ready provides a time for us and our families to work together, making a difference in the lives of others this advent season.

Turn towards each other, stop and take time to be present, give thanks, offer a blessing, and always remember and share how God blessed each of us through the birth of his precious son.

Wondering together

I wonder…

  •         Who you are thankful for?
  •         Who you want to bless?
  •         Who has blessed you?
  •         How you can make a difference in your community?
  •         How God is calling you to change the world around you?
  •         Who God is calling you to turn your heart towards?

Practical Application

Getting Ready for the Mystery of Christmas Together

  • Bless your children and those you love every day
    • This can be done in the morning, at bedtime, before they leave for school, or at any other point in the day.
    • This can be as simple or as long as you wish. Take time to look the child in his/her eyes, take their hands, and say something like: “God loves you and God is with you.”
    • You may choose to make the sign of a cross on their foreheads, or on their hand.
    • For more information on adding a Family Blessing to your family ritual check out: Rolf Garborg’s The Family Blessing (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990).
  • Reach out and bless your community:
    • Serve meals to the homeless
    • Deliver gifts to families who might not be able to afford presents this year.
    • Work with local organizations that are striving for justice and change in your community
    • Support organizations working for reconciliation- seeking to decrease violence, hate, and division.
    • Advocate for the right for all children to grow up in safe environments
    • Advocate for children to have access to quality meals, healthcare, and education.
  •  Participate in 2015 Advent Home Worship
  •  Participate in #PictureAdvent
  • Take time to light your advent candles every day saying a prayer for your family, your church, your community, and the world.

Resources for Church leaders and Families to use this Advent Season:

 

United with Paris: Praying and working for peace in our world

united with paris

As Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and numerous News Feeds around the world filled with the horrors of the Paris attacks, I felt my heart stop once again as I found myself saying: “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.” I dropped to my knees in prayer grasping for words as I thought of the many victims, their families, a country who has been attacked and wounded, and those who would be driven to commit such a horrible act.

As I prayed, I heard the words written by Elie Wiesel  in Night:

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…”

Hearing Wiesel’s reflections on his experiences as a Jew in a Natzi prison camp, I am reminded that in the midst of what feels like chaos and evil, God is with us. God, the creator of love, peace, and justice, journeys with us through these horrific moments. God offers us the courage, strength, and grace we need to continue breathing, moving, and working for a different world.

As I prayed I began to wonder how do we as a faith community respond to such a crisis? How do we have conversations within our families and our congregations? How do we honor the anger and the outrage while praying for and seeking peace in a world where evil seems to run rampant?

As we join together in this hard and holy work my prayer is that the following resources will be a source of comfort and hope. May our prayers and conversations stir in us a desire for a different world. May we hear the call and feel equipped to respond to God’s presence in our lives-  offering love, mercy, and healing to a broken world. May we find strength in God and each other as we join together in the hard and holy work of reconciliation, justice, and peace.

responding to violence

Prayers

Prayer for protection and healing

Prayer for faithful witness and action

Intergenerational Prayer Stations

Responding to Violence

UMC: Responding to Violence

UMC: Supporting Children in a Violent World

UMC: Ways to keep the faith when the world seems wicked

A collection of tributes, condolences and reactions from Muslim scholars and leaders all over the world

Talking with Kids about news, tragedy, and violence

Helping children cope: Tips for talking about tragedy

Helping Children Cope With Tragedy Related Anxiety

How to Help Kids Feel Safe After Tragedy

How To Talk To Kids About Tragedies In The Media

Fred Rogers: Tragic Events

Coping with Disasters, Violence, and Tragedies

Christmas is coming… will you be ready?

As the shelves in stores quickly fill with Christmas decorations, kitchen gadgets, and toys galore, we are reminded that Christmas is coming. Although there is plenty of time before the Christmas season begins, our culture is sending the message to start getting ready NOW.

The Christian faith holds numerous stories about waiting, anticipation, and getting ready. Our ancestors had to wait a very long time for the coming of Christ. The Holy family, shepherds, and wise men went on a very long journey to find the Christ child. Our faith stories remind us that while it is hard to wait and to journey on long difficult roads, these times present us with an opportunity to pay attention to how God is moving in and through us and others as we travel towards Bethlehem and prepare to greet the promised child. This is what the season of Advent is all about- getting ready, waiting, anticipating, and looking forward to the birth of our Savior- Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

As we wait, our culture provides us many opportunities to get swept up into the chaos of the season and the whirlwind of holiday preparation. Advertisements flood all media including TV, radio, internet, billboards, in-store advertising, and the list continues. If you Google “top toys Christmas 2014” your search results will include 290,000,000 websites you can surf as you try to navigate your Christmas list planning. Families are the audience to the constant streaming of marketing campaigns that encourage them to want, buy, and spend more. Children create lists for Santa and people ask the question: “What do you think you will get for Christmas?”

Shepherds journey

All the while, somewhere… in the distance… quietly playing we hear: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…” We remember the journey of our ancestors, how they waited, prayed, struggled, cried, begged, and continued forward with hope. The drone of this familiar Advent hymn pulls us out of the media whirlwind and gives us an opportunity to take a deep breath as we picture Abraham, Sarah, Job, Isaiah, and many others all journeying to the places God called them. We take another breath and the winds of chaos begin to die down as we see the Holy family, the shepherds, and the wise men journeying to the manger. Our focus is brought back to the star that shines above the stable calling us to hear again the words that came to Joseph in a dream:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.”

Journeying to Bethlehem

Our bodies respond slowly as we put one foot in front of the other and begin our journey towards the manger, holding hands with the children who come alongside us, bringing only the essentials that we can stand to carry on our backs. We move towards the star for we know that lying in that manger is the promised Child, God’s beloved son, who comes to set us free- free from chaos, free from the busyness of the season, free from the overwhelming stress brought on as we try to keep up with our culture. In that moment we are grounded once again in the Word, the Promise, and the Call- and we receive the peace that only God can give as we continue towards the manger preparing our hearts to welcome the child that waits for us. And we hear: “Christmas is coming- how are you and your household getting ready?

This question guides each of us, no matter our age, through the Advent and Christmastide season. There are many ways to get ready and many tools that help us on this journey.

  1. Pay attention: Invite families to pay attention to how they give and receive Christ’s love during the Advent season. Then encourage all members of the family to write, draw, or create something for each family member to give on Christmas Day that shares how that person showed them Christ’s love during the Advent season. Families might want to create a special time to share these gifts and affirmations, concluding with a family prayer: “Thank-you God for our family, thank-you for all these good gifts that help us know you better. Bless and protect our family this Christmas season and throughout the New Year.”
  2. Take Time and Wait: Advent is about waiting. It is hard to wait. Encourage families to talk about and share what makes waiting hard. Invite them to think together on things they can do during this time of getting to stay focused on God, sharing God’s love, and feeling the peace that only God can give.
  3. Do Holy Work:
    1. Wonder: Invite families to wonder together during the Advent season. When a person points to an item and says I “Want” that- use this as an opportunity to ask: “I wonder why you want that?” “I wonder what you would do with it?” “I wonder if this was the only gift you ever received if you would want this item or something else?” Encourage children to create a list of their wants and then as you get closer wonder with them about which items they truly “want,” “need,” or would like to give to someone else.
    2. Worship together: Encourage families to worship together at least once a week. After the service invite them to reflect together as they share their favorite parts, their least favorite parts, and one moment they want to remember.
    3. Serve together: Invite your congregations and families to share God’s light by serving together.
      1. Organize an all church Advent project that invites all persons to help other people. Ideas include: adopting a family and inviting persons in the congregation to give items for a Christmas meal or wrapped gifts to go under the family’s tree. Invite families to shop together, have children help with the shopping list as families decide what to give another family in need. Children can help wrap gifts and make ornaments for shut-ins, a local retirement center, friends, neighbors, and family.
      2. Encourage families to participate in a family Advent Invite children to help brainstorm ideas and ways to share the light of Christ with others.
      3. Practice a 1:1 giving discipline: As children start to create their own lists encourage them to write next to every item what they “want” an item they want to “give” or a person they want to “share God’s love with.” Encourage all family members to give/donate one item for every gift received.
    4. Bless Each Other: Take time this advent season to bless each other. Invite families to write notes, letters, and/or make cards telling their family members hoe they feel- reminding their family members that they are a blessing, a gift from God.

A special note about Language: So often the language surrounding children throughout the Christmas season is about receiving. Children create lists for Santa. People ask: “What do you want for Christmas?” When the gifts are opened the follow-up question becomes: “What did you get for Christmas?” This Advent, encourage your congregations and families to change their language to be about giving and sharing Christ’s love with others. Ask: “How are you getting ready for Christmas?” “Who do you want to share God’s love with?” “How will you share God’s love with others?”

May God bless you, your families, and your congregation this Advent Season.

Resources for Church leaders and Families to use this Advent Season: