By Sherry Bennett
When we think of planting and growing church–and by that I mean the people– do we think of the intergenerational nature of it?
The default for many churches from the get-go can be towards the adult contingency, with the kids and youth being the afterthought, or even at times, a distraction from the “real work and ministry” of the church. Children are sometimes even valued mainly as a ministry tool: an “in” to connecting with our neighbours so that we can in turn build the “more important” ministries that cater to adults.
But when we think about God’s intent for His Church, we must recognize that the authentic body of Christ is only fully present when all ages are welcomed, valued and invited to engage and participate. The challenge for us as we consider what church is, is to appropriately wrestle with the place of children and youth, as well as the adult generations, in our midst.
There is a buzz lately around the perceived exodus of young people and young adults from our churches and several pieces of research have emerged that reflect and review this trend. It is being noted that those young people who have grown up in the Church and then continue on as committed and functioning members of the body are those who have benefited from healthy intergenerational communities of believers with parents, older youth and other caring adults building into them, discipling them and mentoring them in ministry. These young people know that they are part of the functioning of the church; they feel valued, they have ownership and they appreciate the discipleship they receive.
As a denomination we recognize the value of planting new churches. We also recognize the value of children and youth in the planting and growth process and having them deeply involved from the very beginning. It is critical for us to consider our ecclesiology as it relates to children and families even at the very early stages of church development, if we want to establish communities that accurately reflect the nature of Christ and His intentions for His Bride.
There are several resources available that can help with the process of evaluating and determining the foundation and trajectory of our ministries:
- Dreaming of More For The Next Generation by Michelle Anthony
- Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones
- Intergenerational Christian Formation by Holly Catterton Allen
If you are interested in reading one of these books and reviewing it for this blog, email Cailey at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll send you a copy of the book for free.
Sherry Bennett is our Director of Children and Families Ministries. Through seminars, one-on-one support and providing various resources, Sherry helps equip CBWC churches and church plants for effective intergenerational ministry for God’s Kingdom. She can be reached at email@example.com.