There’s no question that cultivating intergenerational relationships is an obstacle many churches are seeking to overcome. We can get people from different generations to sit in the same church service, but this doesn’t mean they are “connecting.” If we desire to cultivate intergenerational relationships we must ingrain at least the following five values into the culture of our churches. Here they are and some thoughts about each one:
1. Value of Family – We cannot alienate people by language. When we speak of “family” we ought to focus on our theological family more than nuclear structures so that we do not alienate singles, college-age people, or children who unwillingly find themselves in a broken home. The bottom line is healthy nuclear families are not an end, they are a means to an end.
2. Value of Responsibility – We must help older believers understand their responsibility to invest in younger people. We cannot consider ourselves successful in ministry if we don’t focus on this. The bottom line is measuring faithfulness in ministry must include how we hold people accountable to the standards of scripture.
3. Value of Others – We must help people embrace the call of the gospel to focus on others, first. If people think their faith is about them they will then think the church exists for them and thus will not interact intergenerationally unless they feel like it benefits them. However, a gospel-centered person seeks to give community to others before seeking it for themselves.
4. Value of Quality – We must begin finding ways to measure quality of relationships. We typically only measure quantitative elements in ministry. Churches that are helping cultivate intergenerational relationships are finding ways to measure quality. The bottom line is measuring quantity is not necessarily a sign of success for spiritual leaders.
5. Value of Difference – We must embrace our unique differences, but also value the differences of others (personality, giftedness, etc.) to the point where we intentionally pursue those different from us. Churches have traditionally structured around affinity because we are inherently attracted to those just like us anyway. However, embracing the value of difference would lead to us to also structuring toward diversity. I’ve found that if we structure to promote and protect diversity, affinity naturally happens. But if we only structure around affinity we tend to lose the beauty of diversity, which ultimately leads to generational disconnection.
After serving for almost nine years as pastor of student ministries at Cornerstone in Simi Valley, California, Chuck Bomar is now the senior pastor of Colossae Church located in Portland, Oregon. He’s also the founder of CollegeLeader: an organization focused on helping local church leaders understand and embrace ministry to college-age people. Chuck has written numerous resources including, College Ministry 101: a guide to working with 18-25 year olds (YS/Zondervan). He and his wife, Barbara, have two daughters, Karis and Hope.