As a leader, we want to get people connected into what we are doing. The question is, how do we define connected?
Well, practically speaking, this is often defined by physical involvement. If there are large numbers of people coming to what we are doing, we assume people are connecting. However, just having people show up in the same room at the same time doesn’t mean they are connecting with one another—especially across generations. And that’s important to differentiate.
It’s one thing to get people to something and even have them serve in some capacity. But it’s an entirely different thing to help people connect inter-personally with others and bridge the generation gap. This is more difficult to do than just having people show up. It takes more time and an entirely different strategy.
Here are THREE practical ways you can work to become a connected church across generations and do so in sustainable ways. I will categorize these into Long-Term, Mid-Term and Immediate ideas to keep in mind and implement.
Long-Term. To build a culture that is connected inter-generationally, the people involved must be motivated by the gospel. I’m not trying to sound over simplistic or super spiritual. I really mean this. The reality is, people who have only accepted the benefits of the gospel and have somehow missed the call of the gospel will only serve as a hindrance to becoming a truly connected church.
The gospel, at its most basic level, calls us to be selfless (Mark 8:34), with a unique focus on Jesus and others knowing Him. The gospel motivated Paul to use his personal liberties for the sake of others (1 Corinthians 8:13) and it led him to give up his personal preferences so that others might come to a saving faith in Jesus (1Corinthians 9:22).
This is the mentality that feeds relational connectivity. True and sustainable connectedness will be robbed unless the most basic principles of the gospel are serving as the motivators for the people involved. Our gospel presentations, then, must include both the benefits and the call of the gospel.
Mid-Term. Be very intentional with the terminology you use. Whether it’s in a one-on-one conversation or from a massive stage in front of thousands of people, we must talk about the unifying aspects of everyone involved.
For instance, when we use the word “family” in church contexts, we are most often referring to individual family structures. Our motivations are good, but if we are not extremely careful we can alienate college-age people, anyone else that is single and possibly someone that comes from a broken family.
To be a connected church we ought to redefine words like family, as the “family of God,” which allows everyone to have common ground. It’s in little nuances like this that change a culture and lead to being a connected church.
Another facet is to stay away from terminology like, “Big Church” because it inherently carries an “us and them” tone.
Immediately. Actually connect two people on some sort of common ground. This can be any facet of life, really. Take vocation, for example.
Consider connecting two people from two different generations for one cup of coffee and do so over the common interest in a particular industry. Maybe an older woman in your church is an engineer and you know a college student who is interested in engineering.
Ask the older individual if she would mind sitting down with a younger woman who is interested in this field of work just to “talk shop” and be available to answer any questions about it. This type of inter-generational exposure to people is what cultivates a connected church. Not every one of these connections will become an intimate relationship, but many of them will. And if connecting people like this is a pattern in your life it will, in fact, lead to your church being a connected one.
Chuck Bomar is the pastor of Colossae Church in Portland, Ore., co-creator of XP3 College, and author of numerous books including his latest, Better Off Without Jesus.