I’ve been reading a book recommended to me, ‘Intergenerational Christian Formation’ by Holly Allen and Christine Ross. 1 Essentially the book is the findings and analysis from a PhD research into the affects of age segregation in the church, but also examines the impact on western society. Understanding the American context, Ross references Mary Pipher’s apt comment, “A great deal of America’s social sickness comes from age segregation. If ten fourteen-year-olds are grouped together, they will form a Lord of the Flies culture with its competitiveness and meanness. But if ten people ages 2 to 80 are grouped together, they will fall into a natural age hierarchy that nurtures and teaches them all. For our own mental and societal health, we need to reconnect the age groups.” 2 See here, the weak would be cared for, the wise would be obeyed and the roles of each person would be defined by how they relate to the other. Grandmother to grandchild, nephew to uncle, mother to daughter, peer to peer. But this scenario almost seems so ideal, its unachievable. For school is segregated into age, the work place is occupied by a particular age range, retirees are often separated, and nursing homes even more so. Even I couldn’t even tell you where the nearest nursing home is. I’m only in the introductory stages of the book but it is clear to me that we are increasingly socially fractured.
Today, church is likely to be one of the rare communities where all generations are together. Yet even in the church, we have creche, youth group, young adults, men’s group, women’s group, seniors. I guess my eyes are being opened and I’m asking if this is a problem? Are we following the patterns of this world in age segregation and departing from the uniquely Christian worldview that calls our community a family? Whilst I do think it is valuable to have spaces where we are with our peers, but I am beginning to see that Christian formation is accelerated and richer when the age groups interact meaningfully. When did you experience an “acceleration” in your faith in God? Was there someone who played a significant role in that formation process?
Because of the size of Windsor Road, I think we have a sweet opportunity to be an intergenerational community – and I think we already do this well with congregation members leading the youth and kids church. But I’m wondering if there’s something more we can do? Perhaps the youth need to be in the service more often, perhaps there shouldn’t be a distinct “young adult” LTG. These are some of the things I’m reflecting on at the moment. To further the point, I believe an increased involvement of the young people in the community and worship service, by the grace of God, will be what keeps them here. Their sense of belonging, experience of genuine care, ownership and commitment to God’s church is what will ground them in their young adult years which are fast approaching.
In a intergenerational community, there is opportunity for everyone to encourage each other in our formation as followers of Jesus. A young adult to a youth, a senior to the kids, a young mum to a grandmother, a retired accountant to a young accountant. To me, this looks like the kingdom of God and a flourishing social community. As Pipher commented above, “For our own mental and social health, we need to reconnect the age groups.” This is something that has been brought to my attention so I pray the Lord will be guiding us if this is an area of community life we should consider. It is timely that we are reflecting on the NCLS studies this week and I wonder what story it will tell us.
Would you please join me in praying for this intergenerational Christian formation?
1 Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross, “Intergenerational Christian Formation,” IVP Academic, 2012.
2 Mary Pipher, “The New Generation Gap,” USA Weekend, March 19-21, 1999, p.12.