The NCCL Blog

Pathways to an Intentionally Intergenerational Parish Community - Part One

Apr 03, 2024

In a time where people long for connection, community, and belonging and where loneliness and isolation is so widespread, parish communities can become welcome environments for acceptance and relationships across generations. Parishes have the opportunity to address these hungers of people today by building and strengthening intergenerational relationships, deepening the sense of community and belonging, and engaging in intergenerational faith forming experiences.

The Directory for Catechesis presents the Christian community as “the origin, locus, and goal of catechesis. Proclamation of the Gospel always begins with the Christian community and invites people to conversion and the following of Christ. It is the same community that welcomes those who wish to know the Lord better and permeate themselves with a new life.” (133)

The parish community is a primary agent of catechesis: The faith is professed, celebrated, expressed, and lived above all in community: The communitarian dimension is not just a ‘frame,’ and ‘outline,’ but an integral part of the Christian life, or witness and of evangelization (88). Catechetical ministry can  provide models, approaches, and activities for the parish to involve all ages and generations together in learning, praying, serving, celebrating, and caring for each other.

This two-part article explores practical ways that a parish community can become more intentionally intergenerational in all that it says and does.


#1 :: Promote the Blessings and Benefits of Intergenerationality

Living as an intentionally intergenerational Christian community brings great blessings and benefits to everyone in the faith community. We have learned from research and experience that these blessings and benefits can inspire your community and drive your initiatives. Keep these blessings and benefits in front of your community as you work to strengthen your intergenerational culture. And then add some new ones based on your church’s experience.

Creating an intergenerational church culture. . . .

  • Reclaims God’s intent for faith to be shared in community and across generations and bring understanding and unity within a parish.
  • Teaches people to care for one another in the parish and in the community.
  • Creates a welcoming environment—hospitality, trust, acceptance, emotional safety, and care—conducive to promoting faith sharing, group participation, and mutual support across all generations.  
  • Strengthens relationships among people of all ages, enhances their sense of belonging to the faith community, and increases participation in church life.
  • Affirms each person’s value in the total community, regardless of age, and utilizes the wisdom, experience, and knowledge of one generation to meet the needs of another generation.
  • Helps people learn the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith as they participate with more experienced members of the parish community.
  • Promotes a community where generational differences can be transcended rather than reinforced, where generational understanding and positive intergenerational relationships can be experienced.
  • Brings together the generations to learn from each other, share their faith stories, and support each other in practicing their faith in daily life
  • Develops the faith of all ages and generations as they engage together in sharing faith, learning, serving, celebrating, and praying with one another.
  • Supports families by surrounding them with a community of faith and providing parents with opportunities to learn from practicing believers who have raised faithful children.
  • Increases the opportunities for children and youth to have Christian role models outside of their families.
  • Engages the creative gifts and talents of younger and older generations to serve the church and world.


#2 :: Develop a Culture of Intergenerationality

In Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out, Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro write, “. . . . we believe culture is to the church what a soul is to the human body. It is an overall life force that the Holy Spirit uses to give energy, personality, and uniqueness to everything a body of believers says and does.” Church culture influences everything you do. It colors the way you choose and introduce programs. It shapes how you select and train leaders. “Your culture is the lens through which you view your life. If you change the lens, you change your outlook. Change the culture, and everything else changes, including the future.” (Lewis and Cordeiro, xxi)

It takes time to build an intergenerational culture in a church. In the early 2000s I worked with hundreds of Catholic parishes that embraced an intergenerational approach to faith formation that, over time, transformed how their parishes formed people of all ages in faith and discipleship. Two decades later that transformation provided the foundation for creating a culture of intergenerationality that permeates all of parish life.  

Every church can build (or strengthen) an intergenerational culture. It’s essential to have a multi-year vision for your church and practical strategies that give life to the vision. Here are a few practical steps for designing your plan.

  1. Form an intergenerational task force representing the essential ministries of the parish, and be sure that all generations are included from youth through older adults.
  2. Develop a vision – with short descriptive sentences – of what an intergenerational church culture can look like in three years. Refer to the benefits in suggestion #1.
  3. Explore the opportunities for building an intergenerational approach throughout church life. (We will explore these ideas in Part Two of the article.)
  • First, identify ministries, programs, and activities that are already intergenerational (with generations building relationships, learning, praying, worshipping, serving, and/or leading together); and develop strategies for strengthening and expanding intergenerational ministries, programs, and activities.
  • Second, identify ministries, programs, and activities that are multigenerational (with all ages present without the intergenerational connection and experiences) that can be transformed into more intentionally intergenerational experiences.
  • Third, identify age-specific ministries, programs, and activities that can be redesigned by including additional generations, building intergenerational relationships, engaging in intergenerational experiences, and more
  • Fourth, identify new opportunities for creating intergenerational experiences by designing new programs, activities, and ministries, such as intergenerational service projects and intergenerational learning.
  1. Generate a variety of ideas and projects that the parish can develop in each of the four categories: 1) strengthen intergenerational, 2) transform multigenerational, 3) redesign age-specific, and 4) design new initiatives.
  2. Create a three-year plan by selecting projects that fulfill the vision and provide practical ways to develop an intergenerational culture. A three-year plan allows you to identify projects that can be implemented in the short term (first year), and projects that need more time for design and implementation over the three years.
  3. Present the plan to church leaders and the community. Make a solid case for the need to be intergenerational and the blessings and benefits that it will bring to the church community. Share the plan: your goals and short-term and long-term projects. Invite feedback, suggestions, and ideas.
  4. Implement your plan. Short term projects can launch quickly. Long term projects may need to be piloted with a small group of your target audience (a version 1.0 of the project) to test its effectiveness, and then modified for launching it on a wider scale.
  5. Continue to evaluate your efforts, but be patient. Each effort provides new learning that you can be used to continue to move toward becoming a more intentionally intergenerational congregation.
  6. Keep innovating! Introduce new projects and programs each year. Communicate the stories and examples of the benefits and blessings that are coming to the church community because of the intergenerational focus.


In Part Two of this article set, we will explore a variety of strategies to build an intergenerational parish culture.


John Roberto
NCCL Executive Director
[email protected]


Works Cited
Lewis, Robert and Wayne Cordeiro. Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005.



Stay informed about upcoming reports & research...

Join our community mailing list for new content features and event updates.

You're safe with us. We'll never spam you or sell your contact info.