Including Older Adults in Intergenerational Community
January 23, 2020
Updated June 25, 2020
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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.
What does it mean to be an intergenerational community—one in which all people know and support each other? And how do churches intentionally include third-thirders in intergenerational events and life? The resources gathered here will give you ideas for how to create a fully intergenerational church family.
All Ages Needed for Intergenerational Worship. Joan Huyser-Honig explores the importance of intergenerational worship, based on research and suggestions from Howard Vanderwell and Steve Burger. The article is chock full of highly practical and concrete suggestions for action and change. (You’ll love the account of third-thirders who gathered during the week to learn some newer worship songs!)
The Kuhnekt Initiative Builds Relationships among Church Members describes the simple but effective way Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, is informally building relationships between members.
Play-Doh Fun in Church Unites Children and Elderly People. A church in the Channel Islands (between England and Normandy) brings elderly people (70s-90s) together with young children in a group called Generations. What do they do? They play with Play-Doh and build with Legos as they get to know each other.
A Little Intergenerational Interaction Will Do You Right is a post by Courtney E. Martin about the blessings of intergenerational relationships. Although much of it highlights community living and neighborhood interaction, Martin’s ideas are perfectly suited to the church family as well—and maybe in particular.
Gift-Giving Ideas to Link the Generations. Although the ideas in this article are intended for family gift-giving, many of them also apply well to church family.
Grandma, Partner, Friend describes the power of intergenerational relationships in the church to build community and strengthen faith. The experiment this church is conducting may inspire you to try something similar in your own congregation.
Bridging the Gap: Encouraging Intergenerational Faith Formation. Albert Huizing IV encourages churches to be intentional about bringing the generations together to support each other and grow in faith together. He notes that because there is so little interaction between the generations, young people often don't understand the needs and abilities of older adults, and older adults often forget the positive emotional benefits of being around young children.
Mentoring Is Not a One-Way Street. Parker J. Palmer beautifully uses the metaphor of music to help us catch a vision for how having old and young in relationship together is better than either group on its own: “As we sit together, we can help them learn to play their instruments while they help us learn the music of the emerging world, which they hear more clearly than we do.”
“Mom, Why Do I Have to Go to Church Today?” paints a picture of how to be God’s family to each other. It’s an inspiring reminder to older generations about who they are called to be and describes the significance of community.
Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton. Like our society, many churches are age-segregated. This book brings together research, theology, anecdotes, and case studies to explore the gifts and challenges of becoming an intentionally intergenerational church.
Remembering Your Story: Creating Your Own Spiritual Autobiography by Richard Morgan challenges readers to see their own story in God’s story and to use their experiences and memories to create stories that help pass on faith from one generation to the next.
In The Church of All Ages, Howard Vanderwell invites input from nine writers—pastors, teachers, and worship planners—on how worship leaders can help congregations include all generations in worship. The book encourages readers to think critically and reflectively about their own congregational practices. Each chapter includes questions for reflection and group discussion, and an appendix provides guidelines for small group use.
Jonah and Bob is a heartwarming story about an intergenerational friendship that shows the impact one person can make on someone of another generation.
Ageless Faith is a podcast library whose goal is to encourage congregations to move “beyond the potluck” (social activities only) to a truly robust ministry that encompasses spiritual growth, servant opportunities, and supportive services as well as social activities. Podcasts include Fueling Faith with God’s History, about the power of realizing an older adult's history with God and how it is fuel for growing faith, and Every Change Is a Chance for God to Show Up, in which two Baby Boomers share their experiences of navigating some of the changes they've encountered in older adulthood.
Jubilee Church video. Members of the Jubilee Fellowship Church family in St. Catharines, Ontario, share their stories of intergenerational communion.
Intergenerational Church Toolkit. For many more ideas about how to become an intergenerational community, check out this free online toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries. Its stated purpose is to encourage and equip congregations to cultivate a culture in which faith in God is nurtured and relationships are fostered as all ages learn and grow, serve, and worship together.
As you check out the resources below and consider them, also consider ways you can encourage third-thirders to join with young families in these intergenerational experiences!
WE is a series of intergenerational events from Faith Alive on Advent, the covenant, Easter, creation, the exodus, the tabernacle, and more. Learn more by watching the WE Overview video.
One Bread, One Cup, One People is a free downloadable intergenerational event on the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Prayer is a free downloadable intergenerational event that includes ideas for stations on each section of the Lord’s Prayer.
FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION
Identify situations, rituals, groups, or events in your congregation that are intentionally intergenerational. How can you more effectively blend the generations?
If you are a third-thirder, in what ways are you involved with other generations in your church? How might you become more involved?
If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.
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