Church Health – Structures of Intergenerational Partnership

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Article by Teresa Chang

One thing my church could grow in is raising up new church leaders within each particular ministry group. Often times when a leader steps down or goes on sabbatical, they have not trained a replacement leader from within their ranks, and a mad scramble ensues to assign a deacon or elder to fill the now-vacant spot, even if that new leader has no experience with that particular ministry. This causes a great amount of continuity issues as the vision of the previous leader is no longer carried onward.

God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—He is the God of generations, and every church needs a plan for helping the generations partner together.

Steps to Building Intergenerational Partnership

1. Create hybrid teams.

Most new ministries will be founded and developed by your younger or midlevel (30s-40s) church leaders. To encourage intergenerational partnership, you could make team development part of the standard pioneering process. You could even require your pioneers to have an older couple or individual on their teams. That older individual or couple will provide the ballast, strength and depth of wisdom and maturity needed for a new ministry. They may not be the ones in the driver’s seat, but they can provide the perspective and overview to help an emerging church leader avoid wrong turns. Emerging leaders can be driven by a strong degree of passion or imminent purpose, and the input of a seasoned leader can ward off many mistakes.

At the beginning, intergenerational partnership could be a point of conflict, so it will need to be defined and worked on until it becomes a natural part of your church culture. Make sure harmony exists between younger and older church leaders, and work with them to define their unique roles. For instance, in many cases the younger leader is the pioneer and the one making the decisions, yet he needs to be open to the wisdom and counsel of the older leader. Does the older leader understand the kind of counsel and services she can offer? Does she have the power to veto certain decisions made by the younger leader? Make sure everything is clearly defined for your hybrid teams, especially in the beginning.

No matter how much you teach on this topic, nothing can replace your personal coaching as your combined teams pioneer new relationships and blend two age groups in wisdom and harmony.

2. Have church leaders train up leaders and encourage church small groups.

In every ministry, group or class offered by your church, the leaders should be training up their replacements so the groups can grow and duplicate, and new leaders can be raised up through on-the-job training. If your midlevel and even emerging church leaders are training their replacements to honor, respect and learn wisdom from your older leaders, you will have a self-replicating, organic structure that produces strong intergenerational partnership throughout your church body.

Don’t neglect the power of church small groups as a primary delivery system for every aspect of Christ. Make sure your people are invested in church small groups, communicating with each other and processing intergenerational partnership together as a normal part of their Christian life/community experience.

3. Make sure you’re doing it first.

If you want your church to be strong in something, you need to be strong in it first. Make intergenerational partnership a priority in your own life. Begin by building it at home and within your staff, and then spread it through your next generation of church leaders, so they in turn can promote it with other people in your church.

Make sure your structures are organic and growing from the inside out, so the members of your church can be fully equipped for every good work in Christ. In this way your church will increase and spread to bring transformation to the world around you.


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