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Pathways to an Intentionally Intergenerational Parish Community - Part Two

Apr 08, 2024
Title card featuring multiple generations of a Catholic family

3 Strategies

Part Two of the “Pathways to an Intentionally Intergenerational Parish Community” series focuses on a variety of strategies that your church can use to build an intergenerational culture. Part Three describe an intergenerational learning process and models for organizing intergenerational programming.

 

Strategy 1. Transforming Multigenerational into Intergenerational

Every parish has multigenerational environments in which at least two generations are participating in an event or activity—Sunday Mass, parish events and social gatherings, programs, and classes. Parishes can utilize these environments to connect generations through relationship building and shared experiences.

 How can your church transform multigenerational environments into experiences of intergenerational connection and community? List all of the parish’s multigenerational events and activities. Take one example and apply the following questions to each of your multi-generational settings.

  • Consider relationships: How will the generations interact with each other, get to know each other, share stories with each other? How will the experience incorporate intentional relationship building activities? How will everyone feel welcomed and safe?
  • Consider the content: How will the experience engage generations in shared activities and in generationally appropriate activities?
  • Consider prayer: How will the prayer or prayer experience engage all generations? What prayer forms and activities are best suited for an all-ages group?
  • Consider leadership: How will each generation be involved in leadership roles, appropriate to their gifts, abilities, and age? How will the leadership team engage multiple generations?
  • Consider inclusion: How will each generation feel valued and recognized in the experience?
  • Consider communication: How will communication and social media channels be inclusive of all generations and provide connection among the generations?

 

Strategy 2. Redesign Age-Specific Programs into Intergenerational Experiences

Age-specific programs and activities can provide opportunities for intergenerational connection, relationship building, and shared experiences. Opportunities abound, in children and youth programming, Vacation Bible School, service and mission trips, retreats, Bible studies, and more.

How can you transform age-specific programs by adding intergenerational activities or by redesigning the program into an intergenerational experience?

  • Consider adding intergenerational activities: How can your church incorporate another generation in sharing their faith, wisdom, and interests in the program (interviews, storytelling, presentations, demonstrations)? How can you add mentors or spiritual guides to a program (grandparent mentors for young parents or spiritual guides for young people in confirmation)?
  • Consider replacing age-specific for intergenerational throughout the year: How can your church incorporate regular intergenerational gatherings into your age group programs throughout the year?
  • Consider redesigning the program: How can your church redesign an age specific program into an intergenerational program involving at least one additional generation, such as transforming camp or Vacation Bible School into a grandparent-grandchild program or transforming a youth service program or mission trip into an intergenerational service activity for all ages? Here are several ideas that illustrate how to transform age-specific programming into intergenerational opportunities:

    • Include all generations in Sunday Mass and involve all generations in leadership roles—music, art, hospitality, reading scripture, and more.
    • Add other generations into current age-group programs, such as mission trips, service projects, retreat experiences, and Vacation Bible School. Consider adding intergenerational experiences into VBS such as a grandparent component or redesigning the youth mission trip into an all-ages mission trip.
    • Incorporate intergenerational dialogues, interviews, and presentations into programming—providing opportunities for children and youth to experience the wisdom, faith, and interests of (older) adults; and then reverse the process and provide opportunities for the (older) adults to experience the wisdom, faith, and interests of children or teens through presentations, performances, and discussions.
    • Add a mentoring component into programming for children, adolescents, and parents: parent mentors for baptismal parents, confirmation mentors, learning-to-pray mentors, justice and service mentors—to name a few possibilities.
    • Connect people of different generations who have insights and life experiences that may be helpful to other generations, for example midlife and mature adults helping new parents with financial management and household management, or young people helping older adults navigate the digital and online world.
    • Add intergenerational relationship building and activities into social and recreational activities in the church community, such as the church picnic and after worship gatherings.

 

Strategy 3. Create New Intergenerational Initiatives

The first two strategies focus on redesigning; the third strategy involves designing new intergenerational initiatives (programs, activities, resources). This is the opportunity to create new programs, activities, or experiences that bring together all the generations for learning, celebrating, praying, reading the Bible, serving and working for justice, worshipping, and more. Consider designing a new intergenerational Vacation Bible School, summer camp, service projects and mission trips, retreat experiences, field trips, as well as grandparent and grandchild programming.

Where are the greatest needs and/or opportunities for creating new intergenerational initiatives that bring generations together?

  • Consider Celebrating: How can you celebrate milestones throughout life as intergenerational experiences at church and home?
  • Consider Learning: How can you create intergenerational models of learning—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or seasonally—for the whole faith community? How can you create intergenerational models of vacation Bible school or camp programs or Bible study programs?
  • Consider Praying: How can you create prayer experiences, retreat experiences, spiritual formation programs, spiritual direction, and prayer groups that engage multiple generations?
  • Consider Serving: How you offer local and global service projects and mission experiences that engage all the generations together? (InterGenerate 2.0:

 

It is also worth noting that we are learning a lot about using digital tools and media to connect the generations. While it is not a substitute for face-to-face physical gatherings, digital tools have enabled generations to stay connected through virtual family meetings and dinners, regular communication, prayer, shared activities, storytelling, reading stories, and much more. Digital tools have enabled churches to bring generations together online for worship, storytelling, prayer, service projects, and more. We are recognizing the power of digital platforms, methods, and media to bring people together intergenerationally. It is another arena for designing new intergenerational initiatives.

Look forward to Part Three of this series, exploring Intergenerational Learning Models .

 

John Roberto
NCCL Executive Director
[email protected]

 

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