In our first blog in the series , EM proposed 8 core suggestions on how a church might begin to rethink and redress this important but neglected area of church life, growth and health, and begin to re-strategise this ministry to the greater spiritual health and benefit of all believers, both young and old. The following is core suggestion 7 in the series: –‘Make a Philosophical Shift in Core Values’.
“The area of greatest caution…deals with the failure to fully embrace an intergenerational paradigm at the core philosophical level. Too many times churches try to do intergenerational rather than become intergenerational. So often churches fail to keep momentum going as a result, “intergenerational” is only a temporary emphasis or strategy, rather than a culture shift” 
“If churches try to take on a new model for intergenerational ministry without a new mindset, intergenerational ministry will not be fruitful…it needs to be part of the church’s DNA” 
The article ‘Intergenerational Ministry: Beyond the Rhetoric’ Stuart Crawshaw makes the critical point that “intergenerational is not something churches do – it’s something they become”. 
To become truly intergenerational requires churches to make a paradigm shift where intergenerational ministry is embraced as a core philosophical value across the whole church community.
Snailum reiterates the point:
“…transitioning from a predominantly age-stratified ministry mindset to an intergenerational culture requires a paradigmatic shift in philosophy and core values, and efforts to create intergenerational community need to be an integral part of the whole church’s vision, mission and purpose” 
That is, inter-generationality is not a new model of ministry, but rather a new mindset.
In our current age segregated and age demographic churches, such a paradigm shift will not be achieved overnight, nor will it be achieved by occasional ‘ad hoc’ or tokenistic gestures towards increasing intergenerational contact. Rather, ‘making such shift requires overcoming the individualistic mindset that is so strong in our culture and developing a community mentality in which all generations and ministry departments are valued and involved with each other in significant ways throughout the church body. Cross-generational valuing must become an integral part of the congregation’s collective story’. 
Like many others, Kinnaman believes this lack of consistent, intentional intergenerational engagement has become a significant gap in the current disciple-making process; in order to bridge this gap a radically new approach is needed in the way we structure and develop our church ministry:
“We must ask ourselves whether our churches and parishes are providing the rich environments that a relationally oriented generation needs to develop deep faith…I believe we need a new mind to measure the vibrancy and health of the intergenerational relationships in our faith communities” 
Kinnaman’s desire is to see older Christians, parents and peers recognize their collective calling to love, accept, partner with the next generation, and find new ways to make disciples among this generation. 
To that end, Kinnaman and others have suggested the following:
- Rethinking ‘generations’
- Rethinking how to more effectively engage and include older Christians
- Think ‘family of families’
- Rethink ‘generations’
“The first step is simply grasping the concept that “the church is all generations”. From the…infant to the home-bound, aged widow –all are members of the faith community…And all are members of the body” 
Kinnaman believes the Christian community is one of the few places where those who represent the full scope of human life (from cradle to grave) come together with a singular motive and mission.
Kinnaman believes that a misguided following of public school instructional models has meant churches allowed themselves to become internally segregated by age, unintentionally contributing to the rising tide of alienation that defines our times, as well as resulting in our youth’s enthusiasm and vitality being segregated off from the wisdom and experience of their elders. 
Timothy Paul Jones echoes this sentiment:
“Social or generational similarities are not what define Christian fellowship. The people of God are shaped and defined by Jesus Christ himself, who unites individuals that the world would never dream of bringing together-but not by clustering them in categories of age or special interest or musical preference. Oneness based on such fleeting demographic categories is the same sort of pseudo-unity that the world already offers in the form of tightly niched television programs and marketing campaigns” 
Kinnaman suggests we therefore need a new way of thinking about relationships, generations and generational relationships, that the church must recapture the biblical concept of ‘a generation’, and one that more adequately reflects the living organism called the church and its heavenly reality (Heb 12:22-24):
“I have come to believe that we in the church must recapture the biblical concept of a generation…you assume the church is a collection of separate generations, with the older generations given the responsibility of raising young people…but there is a much bigger reality”
A generation is every living person who is fulfilling God’s purposes…everybody in the church at a particular time make up a ‘generation’, a generation that is working together in their time to participate in God’s work…The church is a partnership of generations fulfilling God’s purposes in their time” 
The belief here, is that rather than assuming the church to be a collection of ‘separate generations’, with the older generations given the responsibility of raising young people, the Bible’s view is that everybody in the church at any particular time, together make up a ‘generation’, a generation that’s called upon to work together to participate in God’s work.
Rather than assuming the church exists to prepare the next generation to fulfil God’s purposes, the church should be a ‘partnership of generations’ fulfilling God’s purposes in their time i.e. with one single motive and mission.
The suggestion is that Churches may not do away with separate children’s or youth ministry, but these programs should be re-evaluated and revamped to make intergenerational relationships a priority.
Kinnaman, like others in this space, believe that ‘flourishing intergenerational relationships’ should distinguish the church from the other cultural institutions of our time where this important aspect of social and educational interaction has now been lost.
2. Rethink how to more effectively engage and include older Christians
“Imagine they knew people in every stage of life who were living out their faith against all kinds of challenges: the widowers and divorcees; the childless and the tired parents; the recovering addict and the recent college grad, still resolute in his faith” 
Across the literature, the critical place and importance of relationships with older Christians (beyond the home) for the spiritual nurture and maturity of children, teenagers and young adults was repeatedly emphasised.
Fields’ believes that relationships are the key draw card for teenagers and young adults and therefore need to take high priority, especially relationships with adults who – “make building relationships with students a high priority, these relationships quicken the ministry’s effectiveness and enhance students’ spiritual maturity”. 
Likewise, in his book ‘Youth Ministry on the Front Foot’, Veron notes: …rather than working hard at helping youth make the transition, work hard at having genuine overlap between the life-stages by knocking down the paddock fences. Encourage rich relationships across the multi-generational people of God” 
Veron suggests there may still be different programs for different groups but with more cross generational connection and engagement e.g. bringing teenagers and adults together for socializing, camps, final terms of transition, enabling youth involvement and engagement in evening services etc. thereby enabling the breadth of adult contact, interaction and support to act as an extended spiritual family to that of the home.
3. Think ‘family of families’
“We have all failed our kids by training them to think that faith is more about homogeneous safety and independent faith commitments than communal living and intimate cross-generational relationships with the family of faith” 
What is being emphasised here is that we must always remember that the Church exists, not as separate biological family units, but primarily (and more significantly) as a spiritual home, a family of families, where each one is a brother, sister, mother or father, and as such, each has responsibility to and for the nurture and discipleship of one another:
“As a family, or the Family of families, the church community is where teenagers can see models of godly decision making in the young adult ‘older brothers and sisters’; where they can learn from models of long term faithfulness in the elder ‘grandparents in the faith’; where young people from broken and divided homes can find role models and advocates in spiritual parents” 
Chap Clark believes one of our responsibilities in this regard is to regularly remind and call the whole church back to the baptism promises they made as a congregation to care and to nurture children through all of life’s stages, and especially as they transition from youth to church or out of one congregation to another:
“In most church communities, when an infant or child is baptized or dedicated, the adults and families publicly promise to care for and nurture that child throughout his or her life. This shift to seeing the end goal of youth ministry as assimilation is a call to your entire congregation to follow through on the promise they made. Make sure the entire body is aware the church is expected to receive with open arms the full partnership and participation of the graduating seniors into the life of the church. The key is to hammer away so often at this message that it’ll become part of the continuing story of the church” 
Likewise, Beckwith believes the biological family; the broader church family as well as individual peers all play a vital and necessary role in the spiritual formation of children, teenagers and young adults. All 3 spheres have the potential to powerfully nurture faith formation.
The Church’s challenge is to find creative ways to bring that potential to fruition. Beckwith espouses the need for bringing the generations together as a family, and congregations as places where life can be shared, relationships grow, experiences shared, and a visible and tangible means of tempering the prevalent cultural separation and ageism. 
4. Be Intentional
Intentionality is critical to culture change. To transition from an age-stratified ministry focus to an intergenerational community will not happen without consistent intentionality in order to initiate and sustain such a paradigmatic shift. Leaders and individual ministries must have complete ‘buy-in’ and support, not only to sustain the intergenerational shift but be purposeful and strategic in it.
NEXT POST: The next post in the series will be –‘Begin Where You Are’.
Other blogs in this series:
* Intergenerational Ministry Part 1: ‘Why Intergenerational Ministry’
* Intergenerational Ministry Part 2: ‘Carefully Manage Age Segregation’
* Intergenerational Ministry Part 3: ‘Build Social Capital’
* Intergenerational Ministry Part 4: ‘Create Structures that Span Life Stages’
* Intergenerational Ministry Part 5: ‘Develop Intergenerational Serving Ministries’
* Intergenerational Ministry Part 6: ‘Rethink the Place of Church Wide Services’
* To download a full copy of E.M’s research on this topic head to the ‘Intergenerational Ministry’ page on this website.
 H.C Allen & C.L Ross: Intergenerational Christian Formation: ‘Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship’.
 Beyond the Rhetoric: p. 2.
 Kinnaman’s research discovered that most young adults do not recall having a meaningful friendship with an adult or adult mentor through their church. That Churches are failing to provide the rich environments that this relationally oriented generation needs to develop deep faith. Kinnaman believes that this is a critical ‘gap’ in the disciple-making process that must be addressed if we are to adequately respond to youth drop out in our churches. D. Kinnaman, You Lost Me: ‘Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith’.
 Lost: p.34.
 Allen & Ross.
 Lost: p.203.
 T. P Jones: Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents To Make Disciples.
 Lost: p.203.
 D. Wright: ‘Don’t Segregate the Youth’.
 D. Fields: Purpose Driven Youth Ministry.
 G. Stanton: Youth Ministry on the Front Foot.
 Clark: ‘Strategic Assimilation’ p.3.
 G. Stanton: ‘Mickey Mouse Youth Ministry’.
 C. Clark: ‘Strategic Assimilation: Rethinking the Goal of Youth Ministry’, p. 4.
 I. Beckwith: Formational Children’s Ministry: Shaping Children using Story, Ritual & Relationship: p.131f. Interestingly, Kinnaman makes the observation from his data that young adults’ ability to grow in faith withers when they persist in narcissism, entitlement, and out of proportion self-confidence. His belief is that many youth have an unrealistic self-assessment that’s aided and abetted by a culture that glorifies youth as inherently beautiful, valuable, and wise. The marketing media obsession with youth and young adults has lead to two negative consequences: 1. It reinforces the very modern notion that the next generation must be catered to before all else. 2. It fuels the damaging misperception that older people don’t have much value to offer younger generations, thereby increasing generational fragmentation in our cultural imagination, and contributing to the shallowness of the generation. Lost: p.117.
 S. Crawshaw: Beyond the Rhetoric.
 B. Snailum: ‘Implementing Intergenerational Youth Ministry Within Existing Evangelical Church Congregations: What Have We Learned?’.
 Beyond the Rhetoric: p. 2.