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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