8 Ideas to Try With Intergenerational Small Groups

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“Profoundly moving.” “Beautifully chaotic.” “An incredible gift.”

Those are the words I heard again and again when I asked people to describe their intergenerational small groups.

Something else they say frequently: “It’s difficult to find Bible study resources we can use with all ages.”

Yet intergenerational small groups thrive. Faith grows in such gatherings through the sharing of lives and the stories of God’s faithfulness in them, the offering of prayers, the breaking of bread, and what Suzie Lane of GenOn Ministries refers to as the “mutual investments” made in each other.

Spiritual growth can’t be programmed, but great resources are important. As someone who is part of an intergenerational small group (we call ours a “missional family”) and who works in resource development, I set out to find resources that could be used in three ways:

  • as a method for gathering
  • as a segue to storytelling
  • as a connection to Bible reading.

Every item on the list below fits those criteria.

Images

Each photo from Vibrant Faith’s Visual Faith Project can generate a thousand words. Buy a package of images, spread them out, and invite each person to select a photo that does one of the following:

  • shows how you are feeling today
  • reminds you of the week you’ve just experienced
  • makes you think of your family/your neighborhood/your relationship with God
  • reminds you of a time you were sad/happy/afraid/feeling peaceful/confused
  • gives you a picture of hope
  • reminds you of the Bible passage we just read
  • makes you think of a favorite Bible story or verse
  • speaks to you about the character of God
  • illustrates a word/phrase/theme from the story/verse that was read
  • etc.

Tell about why you chose that image. (If your group includes children, I recommend ordering their Kids Pack images.)  

Story Stones

Milestones Ministry sells a bowl of stones with symbols painted on them to mark beginnings, endings, thankfulness, remembering, prayer, loss, and more. Use the stones as tangible story starters by taking turns to selecting a stone to hold and then telling a story related to that stone’s meaning.

These wonderful Story Prompts from Faith Formation Ministries team member Sandy Swartzentruber can be used with the stones or on their own. 

Bible Story Themed Questions

One set of God’s Big Story cards will provide you with 165 questions to generate faith-nurturing conversations with all ages. Use the questions on their own or in tandem with a particular Bible story. The Bible passage is listed on the front of each card; look for the question marked Share on the back. To see a sample of the cards, click here.

Storytelling Questions

Inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk on The Danger of a Single Story, the card game More Than One Story was created to build bridges between people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. Questions include: “Tell a story about a moment when you were nervous,” “Tell about a time you succeeded,” and “Tell about someone you miss.”  Available in multiple languages and as a free app.

Speaking of questions, this list of questions to generate conversations about faith is one of the many helpful resources you’ll find in Faith Formation Ministries’ Storytelling Toolkit.

Devotional Frameworks

Faith5 provides a simply structured framework for leading devotions:

  • Share your highs and lows
  • Read a Bible verse or story
  • Talk about how the Bible reading might relate to your highs and lows (“Where was God in the story?” and “Where was God in your high/low?”)
  • Pray for each other, and
  • Bless one another. 

(Consider ordering a set of Faith5 bookmarks for folks to use in their homes as well. ) 

Teach Us to Pray is a family devotional which follows the Christian calendar and which includes brief passages, wondering questions, and prayer ideas that could be used to shape a devotional time in an intergenerational setting. Read a sample here.

How might you use these ideas with your small group? What other resources have you found helpful?

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I wish there were ideas that didn't involve 'purchase' of additional resources/materials. This can be difficult for groups with a small budget.

Any 'homemade' ideas?

Community Builder

Great question, Sarah. Some of the ideas I shared are free (the Story Prompts, the list of questions from the Storytelling Toolkit and the Faith5 devotional method) and most of them could be adapted for free.  Instead of purchasing images you could find a number of photos online, share them with your group and invite them to tell which one they would select (using the questions I provided or others that you have in mind) and why they chose it.  Or, invite each person to bring a photo (or another object) which represents for them an answer to one of the questions (provided in advance.)  For the Story Stones activity you can download the Story Prompts for free and then fill a bowl with stones found outdoors or from the dollar store. If you like, you could use permanent marker to draw a symbol on each stone or you could leave them blank and simply invite people to choose a stone and hold it while telling their story using the Story Prompt questions. (It's amazing how helpful it is just to have something to hold!) The Faith5 method is all free online and you could always make your own version of the bookmark if you wanted to keep a simple reminder of that practice with you. Hope that helps!