Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We are not alone!

Excuse the "alien-space" reference again, but it was fitting for what I want to share.

Last week I had the honor of speaking at a 50+ conference.  A student ministry guy at a conference designed for 50+ year old participants?  Yep--it was awesome!  I was asked to present some material related to Intergenerational Student Ministry published with the Fuller Youth Institute, www.stickyfaith.org  (check it out).  I had such a great time with these wonderful and visionary church leaders who are part of the CASA Networkwww.gocasa.org (Christian Association Serving Adult Ministries Network). Did I say it was awesome? 

I knew only one person at the event (hey Bob) and had not even made connection with the director of the conference when I sat down to listen to the first session--this is where the "alien-space" reference comes into play.  I was drinking my coffee (as usual), getting comfortable with my surroundings and then it happened. The message being spoken was the same message being delivered at today's top student ministry conferences--students and young families need meaningful interaction with and mentoring from adult followers of Jesus--Intergenerational programming speak!  I was thrilled at the synergistic (fancy way to say synergy) message I was privileged to be a part. We (student ministers) are not alone!

Here are a few of the things I kept hearing, in no particular order, from various speakers, teachers and panel participants (again, you can hear any of these things at the student ministry conference of your choice):
  • The church "family," not just mom and dad, share a responsibility in the spiritual formation of children.
  • Mature followers of Jesus have a responsibility to proactively seek ways to build relationships with today's students and young families.
  • Intergenerational programming does not mean sacrificing age specific ministry but rather asking the question, "How can our existing programs be morphed to build relationships across generational boundaries?"
  • Intergenerational ministry is NOT another program.  It is a mindset.
I could continue to list the synergistic (I had to use the word again) messages but I mention these as a backdrop for the following comments.  Caution, these comments are going to be a bit preachy.  First, student ministry "experts" and "conferences" are not the only ones speaking prophetic words and predicting future programmatic trends for the Church.  To be clear, I am not one of these, but I run across a few student ministers that give little value or attention to the voice of older leaders and members of  our church communities--this is an arrogant and grave error in my opinion.  Second, I was thrilled to hear those who have me beat by more than a few decades of ministry say to their peers that they need to be "sages" for the Church and stop being "rigid" keepers of the statuesque--because statuesque is not working (all age groups and ministries grieve the fact that large numbers of our students walk away from Christianity after graduation from High School).  To the 50+ saints reading this blog, we "young-in's" need your help in casting an informed (historically, theologically, socially responsible, etc.) future for our church communities and not have dark shadows of "the way it use to be" cast over our attempts to effectively minister to our generation--we really want to listen and dialogue with you!  And third, this experience strengthened my belief that Intergenerational ministry programming talk is much more than a fad used to start up the next national conference option, book deal and/or speaking circuit on ramp opportunity.  I believe it is a movement of the Spirit that is working to correct a programming methodology that has divided the church into age segregated silos (No, I am not going to unpack this here, but feel free to weigh in with your opinions below--the conversation will be fun).

I have spent a large portion of the last four years researching, rethinking, regrouping and re envisioning student ministry so that the flow of students exiting the Faith after graduation could be slowed and/or stopped.  Some of the corresponding programmatic changes have been easy, others not so much.  Still, through it all, the Intergenerational piece remains a part of all my programmatic discussions.  Personally, I am so fortunate to work with a church family, leadership, peers, families and students that want to break down the generational silos.  Even so, it was good to know we are not alone!

Question:  Understanding that every age group needs "their time" together, what are some of the obstacles faced when attempting to program over generational lines?  How have you worked through these obstacles?

1 comment:

  1. I have worked at finding people outside the teen's normal realm of interaction. The adults who are investing in them by leading small groups and such are really enjoying being with the teens as well. The teens seem to struggle when its their own parents most.

    The biggest obstacle I've seen is when we tell them that their parents are invited/need/are going to be part of an event, they (the teens) seem to think that the event will no longer be good or worth it, that their parents will ruin the event, whether devotionally focused or fun. I try to encourage them to just be a part and not focus on their kids by picking another couple of kids to invest in for the night. This seems to put everyone at ease to some extent. Although it is not a perfect approach, it does seem to ease the student's and parent's mind a bit.

    I look forward to seeing other's thoughts and ideas.