“It’s about seeing Jesus in each other!” said Diane Roth answering a question posed on Facebook. The question itself asked about the benefits a congregation might would gain if moved to a cross + generational education hour.
Cross + generational, of course, means all ages (from 0 – 100) learning or worshiping, together. My current congregation is giving this a test run these last four weeks before everyone breaks for the summer. We decided to call it 4 Sundays of Service, focusing on God’s story with a dose of service learning. It’s been a welcomed change, but to make it work we did some planning:
- Pray. And then, pray again.
- Cast a vision. Share in advance what is going to happen as not everyone likes surprises. Better yet, include them in your planning.
- Validation. As people express their feelings over change, listen. I mean really listen to them, and then validate their feelings. Listen, validate, cast. Rinse and repeat.
- Branding. Cross + Generational education is not Sunday School, adult education or youth group. It is all ages learning. Be sure your branding fits with your intentions.
- Team Effort. At my church, both pastors and CYF staff are on board with all ages learning. Collaboration is key in making the transition.
- Service Learning. Combine two things that people love: a little bit of Bible and a whole lot of service. All ages can learn and serve!
- Time Commitment. Our education hour is only 45 minutes, and we are doing this as a 4 Sunday commitment. Both are realistic time frames.
- Create Space. One space. Round tables. Everything should be on the tables for easy access.
- Outcome Based. Be clear at the beginning of your time together what you will do. I.E. With our 4 Sundays of Service, we do three things: 15 minutes of Bible storying, 15 minutes of service project, and 15 minutes of reflection.
- Enthusiasm. Have a spirit of fun lead the way. It’s catching!
Now I’m not expert on all things cross+generational. Many of the things I try are intentional trial and error. There are at least 1001 benefits to this intentional ministry, like what Linda Bailey told me, “I always hear grandparents say, ‘I wish we would have had something like this when my kids were young.’” Or as Patty Kernstock suggests, “Make it fun! Parents will relax and engage when their kids are having fun!”
Sometimes it gets real in what Jan Snell shared with me, “It’s about seeing adults and kids really listening to each other.” Then she shares this story: “On Sunday we were discussing hospitality, and we read about Jesus and the Feeding of the 5000. When the groups at the tables were asked to wonder why the boy would give up his lunch, this little 7 year old girl said ‘He was just a little kid, but he wanted to feel important.’”
And there it is – the biggest benefit of them all – to be heard, to feel important – around the table. It’s knowing that we are just better together.