Article by Teresa Chang
One of the most beautiful examples of intergenerational partnership at my church is how the church leaders in our short-term missions department honor my mom. My mom is the deacon over our missions department and she also leads the annual missions trip to eastern Europe. As the trip leader, she has raised up many as leaders for future missions trip, particularly in the college age and young adult age group. These church leaders see my mom as their “momma” and they always cheer her on and celebrate her. These leaders are always welcome in her home, and she often invites them over for a delicious home cooked meal while spending time with them and discipling them. It is amazing to see how many lives she has touched, and how they have blessed her as well.
One of the keys to a thriving church is making sure members of all ages are valued and that their contribution is respected. As a church leader, you can build a culture that will propel your movement into powerful, amazing synergy.
What do you as a church really care about? What are your values? What drives you? Take a look at your church’s values, priorities and practices. Your culture displays who you are. Remember that culture is the shared values, priorities and practices, along with the traditions, symbols and expressions that unite a community. When you know what you care about, you can establish your priorities and be specific about how you spend your time, energy and resources. Out of your priorities, your everyday practices emerge; these are things you do on a daily basis out of habit. Each of these individual “steps” works to establish a culture of intergenerational partnership in your church.
If you can build a healthy, strong, cohesive culture at the beginning of the process, you will birth a movement that doesn’t necessarily need to be managed.
How to Build a Culture of Healthy
As you seek to generate a culture of intergenerational partnership, you need to look at the three main components of culture: healthy values, priorities and practices.
1. Values that support intergenerational partnership
What are the values that produce a culture of healthy intergenerational partnership? One is integrity, which allows a church to honor God’s purpose for every age level. Another important value is interdependency; a church should value the strength gained through the wisdom of age, as well as the innovation and sense of vitality found in the emerging age group. A church becomes steady, strong and unshakeable as wisdom and innovation partner together.
2. Priorities of intergenerational partnership
How does your church govern its time, energy, money, talents and what you celebrate as a group? How do you allocate your resources? Your answers to these questions reveal your priorities. To make intergenerational partnership a higher priority in your church, talk about it and celebrate it from the pulpit on a regular basis. Bring it to the forefront of people’s minds and try to keep it there. Model it yourself, and show your congregation what intergenerational partnership can look like.
3. Make intergenerational partnership a daily practice in your church.
How can you build intergenerational partnership into your church so it becomes a daily practice? One of the main ways you can do this is by making your church small groups and ministry groups inclusive, so they involve different generational levels. Build grandparent leaders into your structures (programs), so they are able to serve and care for the midlevel and younger leaders in a way that produces honor and value for their participation.
Also, it is vital to remind your elder leaders of their importance in the lives of younger leaders. Their lives are not over and their work is not done; they have not lost their value. Scripture holds many tremendous examples of elder leaders discipling and mentoring younger ones in a way that produced a culture of true intergenerational partnership. The older generation has strength and wisdom the younger generations desperately need.
We suggest you select a few of your key older leaders and work with them as they spend time with your emerging leaders. For example, those who are grandparents or “empty nesters” could begin to disciple those who still have children in the home.
Remember, culture is the key to leadership. If you can create a strong culture around the values you want your church to embrace, 75 percent of your micro leadership will be done. We encourage you to think strategically and culturally, and create models that show the rest of the congregation how to walk out these principles. In the process, you will be able to revolutionize your congregation and dramatically escalate the Kingdom in your region.