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.
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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:

 

Children’s Ministry Forum Returns in 2015

As I look back over my 17 years of ministry with children and their families, I am overwhelmed by many memorable and life changing experiences. I have been blessed to be in ministry with amazing children, youth, adults, professors, congregations, and communities. My ministry has, is, and continues to be shaped by many people, places, and events.

Taking this stroll down memory lane, I find myself stopping as I remember 2006, 2007, and 2008. During that time I was serving a large church in Austin, TX and was given the opportunity to attend the Children’s Ministry Forum. As I think about these events and the way they impacted me as a pastor and leader in the local church, I remember:

  • breaking bread with new friends as we discussed the joys and challenges of our work with children and families,
  • excitedly taking notes as I participated in a workshop that presented new ideas, tips, tools, and approaches to try when I returned home,
  • and participating in life giving worship that renewed my soul and sent me back home energized and determined to continue living out my call.

I often would spend evenings and early mornings in my hotel room going over my learnings from the day, outlining a plan for the months ahead, and thinking about all the possibilities that ministry with children and families creates.

Some of my fondest memories include (and for those of you who were also present- you too may remember):

  • hearing the stories of conference participants being sung back to them by Ken Medema in worship,
  • driving a minivan full of new friends and colleagues back to the airport as we learned that we were in the middle of a tornado warning,
  • sitting outside in a church garden praying and pondering where God was leading me next,
  • and participating in numerous conversations with new friends as we brainstormed, shared ideas, and excitedly made plans for our work when we returned home.

Children’s Ministry Forum is a conference for children’s ministry leaders in large United Methodist congregations (over 300 in worship). This event offers opportunities for worship, spiritual renewal, continuing education, fellowship, networking, and support. It was at these conferences where I was equipped, challenged, and encouraged in my work as a minister with children. Being in community with other United Methodists from around the connection made my heart sing as we exclaimed: “We are not alone! Someone understands what I am experiencing! There are others who are with me on this journey!”

Matthew 18 reminds us of the importance of gathering together, journeying together, holding each other accountable, forgiving one another, and supporting one another. In this chapter the author reminds us of Jesus’ promise: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

We are called into community. God moves in and through us as we laugh, share, cry, learn, wonder, play, imagine, and grow. Children’s Ministry Forum offers an amazing opportunity to participate in this work together as we pay attention to all that God is doing in and through our ministry. Will you join me and others from around the country in Little Rock, Arkansas this November?

Wondering together

I wonder…

  •         What you might discover at Children’s Ministry Forum 2015?
  •         What you might share at Children’s Ministry Forum 2015?
  •         Who you might meet at Children’s Ministry Forum 2015?
  •         Who you will bring to Children’s Ministry Forum 2015?
  •         How you you will experience God at Children’s Ministry Forum 2015?

Practical Application

Next Steps

  • Mark your calendars and save the date: November 17-19, 2015

  • Confirm with your staff, team, and budget regarding your plans to attend Children’s Ministry Forum
  • Watch for the Children’s Ministry Forum Website to go live on February 2nd, 2015 (this will include workshop proposal applications and hotel information)
  • Register for Children’s Ministry Forum starting May 1st, 2015
  • Invite your staff, leaders, a friend to join you at Children’s Ministry Forum
  • Make your advent plans early so all will be prepared and ready when you attend Children’s Ministry Forum
  • Join us for this event as we wonder, discover, and grow together. 

Wondering Together

questions1

I wonder is a good word (anonymous, age 8).

 Over the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of journeying with different families as they wrestle with their questions about God. Two of these questions include:

  • Why would God ask Abraham to kill…isn’t that wrong, why would God even ask?”
  • How do I explain the Trinity to my 5 year old?”

As I struggled with how I might respond to these questions, I remembered what children have taught me: Active Wondering and Active Listening are essential steps in faith inquiry, discovery, and growth. These two tools create a space that honors the questions and provides an opportunity for persons to find meaning and value as they seek understanding.

In my PhD dissertation research project, Experiencing God Together, I worked with 28 amazing children who showed me the importance of wondering and listening in our faith journey process. As one eight- year old boy declared, “Wonder is a good word.” Through active wondering and listening we create a space that:

  • Invites all of God’s children to share their stories
  • Affirms every person’s experience of the Holy
  • Supports persons as they wonder, discover, claim, and respond to these experiences of and with God.

It is no wonder Jesus was surrounded by priests, scribes, Pharisees, disciples, and many others who were constantly asking him questions. Questions are an essential part of our learning and living process. When we pay attention to Jesus’ responses we hear how Jesus did not provide straightforward, easy answers, but instead Jesus stopped and honored the process of wondering with his reflections that often came in the form of parables. Jesus’ wisdom provides us with significant insight as we continue the spiritual discipline of asking tough questions, wondering and listening together, and seeking new understanding as an intentional faith community.

We all have questions that drive us into a quest for understanding. It is the questions that lead us into a deeper relationship with the Holy. One question I will never forget- asked of me by a four year old boy- “How do I know I believe in God?” My response, “You know I wonder about that too… maybe we can learn together.”

I am praying for fruitful conversations, new discoveries, and strengthened relationships. Blessings on you and your ministry.

Wondering together

  • I wonder what questions children have asked you?
  • I wonder how you responded to these questions?
  • I wonder what you learned about God in these experiences?
  • I wonder what you wonder about?

Practical Application

How to actively wonder with children and other people in your faith community

  1. Honor the question: (You might choose to say)
    1. That is a really big question
    2. That is a really important question
    3. Note: If you do not have time to engage in a wondering session immediately after the question is asked you might choose to say: “That is a really important question. I need some time to think about it and I wonder if we can wonder together about this…[insert another time/day].” Remember- this is important work- make sure you keep your wondering date and help the child know that you are not just dismissing their question.
  1. Affirm the value of the question (You might choose to say)
    1. This is a big question. I think other people probably wrestle with it too.
    2. You know, I wonder about that too.
    3. That is such a big question many people have wrestled/struggled to understand/answer that question
  1. Remember that there is not always a simple “right” answer

Note: Take time to wonder with the child leaving the conversation open- try to avoid giving concrete answers immediately.

  1. Recognize children have often thought about the question before asking it (You might choose to say)
    1. I wonder what you think?
    2. I wonder what you know?
    3. I wonder how others have answered the question?
    4. I wonder how you might answer the question?
    5. Note: This will help you understand what is behind the child’s question and what thinking he/she has already done.
  1. Research
    1. Ask: I wonder if there’s anything we can read/look up/listen to/watch that might help us with this question
    2. As you research together ask:
      1. I wonder how this helps us answer the question?
      2. I wonder if there is other information that we need?
      3. I wonder where you want to look next?
    3. Note: This “active wondering” process honors the child and creates a space for you to wrestle with the faith together. Sometimes there are not easy answers and we have to work together to form our own understanding.
  1. Conclude this time together by saying
    1. Thank-you you for wondering with me
    2. I now see…(insert your own ah-hahs here)
    3. I wonder what you discovered
    4. I wonder if there are any steps we are missing?
  1. Affirm and Summarize
    1. Note: You can conclude with something that affirms the wondering process or summarizes what you discussed/learned/discovered.
    2. Ex: Thank-you for wondering with me. I love how wonder helps us think together as we grow in our faith and learn more about God, each other, and the world around us.

Table Moments: Experiencing God when we gather together

cropped-set-dinner-table1.jpeg

Magic happens when we bring the generations together. It is not neat and tidy; rather it is chaotic and messy

(Martineau, Faith Formation Across Generations, 2).

As an aunt and godmother to six beloved children, some of my favorite moments with them are spent around the table talking, praying, laughing, and catching up with one another. Since I live in a different state, the opportunities to sit at the table with these precious children are few with much time in between visits. Therefore, the moments when I do find myself sitting around the table with their families are extremely valuable and life giving. It is in these rare moments that I experience the gift that God gives through the breaking of the bread and the sharing of a community meal.

Gathered around the table, we share stories, laugh, cry, and reconnect as we break bread together. I often find myself holding one of my godchildren, leaning over to grab the fork that fell on the floor, while trying to explain something I am working on to my brother-in-law, sister, or friend. In these moments we vie for each other’s attention and an opportunity to share what we are thinking and feeling.

Of course there are moments when someone decides they do not want to eat the broccoli on their plate so it gets thrown to the floor in disgust, another remembers there’s food still in the oven and jumps up to save the dish, the baby screams out of hunger and frustration, and someone realizes we forgot napkins and jumps up to get them. It is during these times that my sister looks at me and says, “Welcome to the craziness!” I always reply, “I love it!” I ponder how this chaos makes me feel alive, brings me joy, and creates a deep and overwhelming sense of gratitude and give thanks to God for my family and friends. It is in these moments that I squeeze the child I am holding a little tighter and I thank God for the gift of life, love, and relationships that sustain us through the chaos of life.

These “table moments” are a microcosm of life. God is the creator who brings order out of chaos. It is in and through the “craziness” that God creates- calling us forth to participate in the work of the Kingdom. We are called to the table. We bring our individual voices, opinions, stories, feelings, and gifts. Sometimes this chaos drains us and other times it brings us joy. Yet, in and through it all, when we pay attention we can experience God’s creative presence. God creates us to be in relationship, equips each of us (no matter our age) for this life together, empowers and sustains us as we work together, and moves in and through our time together. It is in these moments that God moves- transforming individuals, families, communities, and the world.

Wondering together

  • I wonder when your family gathers together?
  • I wonder where your family gathers together?
  • I wonder what you feel when your family is gathered together?
  • I wonder how you experience God during these table moments?
  • I wonder how you can create intentional time to gather as a family?

Practical Application

How to make the most out of your “Table Moments”

  1. Meal Blessing Placemats
    1. Choose a “family meal blessing” (this can be spoken or sung)
      1. Be present at our table lord
      2. A collection of inter-faith table graces
      3. You might want to write your own
    2. Create place mats with your family’s “Grace before meals” (if you choose to have a grace after meals you can put this on the place mats too)
    3. Say/Sing the grace together before meals
  1. Light a Candle (this can be with a real flame or a battery operated device)
    1. Place a candle in the middle of your family dinner table
    2. Light the candle before the meal (family members might want to take turns)
    3. Create a liturgy that you can say every time you light the candle, reminding your family that God is with you during the meal. Example:
      1. Leader: The Lord be with you
      2. Family: And also with you
      3. Leader: We light this candle as a reminder that God is with us as we gather together.
      4. Family: We see the candle and remember- God loves us and is with us.
      5. All: Amen
  2. “I wonder” cards: Place a box of I wonder questions on your kitchen table, give everyone a chance to answer the question during the meal.
    1.  Example Resource: Little Box of Big Questions 
    2. Example Questions:
      1. I wonder what your favorite Bible story is?
      2. I wonder what your favorite color is?
      3. I wonder what your favorite place is?
      4. I wonder who your best friends are?
  3. Practice the Daily Examine/Share highs and lows from the day. 
    1. Example Resource: Sleeping with Bread, Holding onto what gives you life
    2. Example Questions:
      1. I wonder when you felt close to God today?
      2. I wonder when you felt happy today?
      3. I wonder when you felt alone today?
      4. I wonder when you felt sad today
      5. I wonder if anything made you feel better?
      6. I wonder if you made someone feel better?
      7. I wonder what the best part of your day was?
      8. I wonder what the hardest part of your day was?
      9. (For early meals): I wonder what you are looking forward to doing today?
      10. I wonder how you experienced God today?
      11. I wonder how you shared God’s love with others?