This is a great opportunity for the church to figure out what it looks like to facilitate intergenerational relationship! Here are a few things church leaders can do to get started.
For all that is said about the organic nature of relationships, the power of the church is its convening ability to purposefully and intentionally bring people together. I’ve had some crazy conversations with youth pastors who are shocked at how great the divide is between generations in their church. Simple conversations can be excruciatingly difficult, with neither generation really sure what’s on the heart and mind of the other. Churches with leadership that not only back the idea of generational relationship, but also lead the way in proactively making the space for it, will make huge strides in this area.
To get that first part right, there’s a hard truth:
Intergenerational relationships aren’t for everybody, at least at first.
In fact, only 13% of your church population (across the generational spectrum) is going to be readily open now to interacting intergenerationally. A larger percentage will be willing to give it a try once that first group shows it worthwhile. And, sadly, a final, smaller percentage will never do it.
Getting the 13% right upfront is key to sustainably curating intergenerational relationship. Who are the 13%? They’re the open, forward-thinking, curious, passionate, and innovative members of your church. What is fascinating is that when you get these early adopters together, you’ll forget there is a generational difference because the Personality DNA of the 13% Millennial and the 13% Elder Generation is so similar.
Sustainable relationships of any kind require committed consistency. Consistency also creates buy-in, stability, and confidence. I’ve found that intergenerational relationships that don’t have some kind of structure, plan, or process generally get left behind in the hustle and bustle of life. Church leadership that combines curation with a consistent plan at first will streamline and accelerate the process.
There’s one last piece of consistency that is important – your 13% are going to want to DO something from their time together. Consistent ideation, conversation, and solutioneering is vital.
Intergenerational Relationship Check-Sheet
Want to get started this month creating an intergenerational relationship model in your church? Here’s how to put these 3 Cs on the ground quickly.
- With your church leadership, select 4 topics surrounding your church or broader that would benefit from intergenerational perspective and solutions. These could be theological, cultural, generational, etc.
- Select 5 Millennials, 2 Gen X, 2 Boomers, and 1 Silent Generation member. Consider this as your 13%. Reach out to them individually and invite them to be a part of a new innovative model you’re trying out that brings generations together to talk about key issues in and around your church.
- Schedule a consistent time weekly for four weeks to have these conversations.
- At first, keep these gatherings organic – meaning don’t think of them as a program or a church-wide initiative. Keep it relational and grassroots.
- At the end of the 4 weeks, assess how your intergenerational group is enjoying the process. You’ll probably find they will a) want to stay together, b) add others into the group, and c) come up with 10-12 topics on their own that they want to talk about and devise solutions around.
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