Moving Out of The Nursing Home
By Kasper Haughton Jr.
Do our emerging generations of youth experience our churches as they would a nursing home or as they do their own home environments?
I recently had a conversation with a friend about the youth ministering on stage during our church service and this interesting observation arose. We've all seen it - an eager group of young adults and teens gathering in their local nursing home. They enter with smiles, songs, and hugs - and genuinely enjoy ministering there. At the end of the day, however, they are merely visitors on stage doing ministry meaningful for their elders. Very few young adults and teens choose to live at nursing homes, let alone stay longer than a couple hours.
How can our churches become more than nursing home ministries, where our emerging generations find cultures that value true intergenerational community rather than just an invitation to curate culture meaningful for others?
Intergenerational ministry...it's a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days, as it depicts a utopian church community working in synergy across the age gaps. But far too often, the practical experience today's emerging young adults find in church is a world very similar to that of the young boy David as he faced King Saul before battling Goliath. Like Saul, it seems like we consistently recognize the eagerness of our youth to join the cause of lifting high the name of our God, by handing them our bulky armor. All the while, like David, our emerging generations have a completely different talent and skill set in "battle".
Our youth want more than platitudes and promises of an intergenerational church that feels more like the experience of leading worship for someone else's home and world. They want to belong to their church communities, where belonging means that they have an active & valued voice in shaping their home.
Intergenerational ministry is more than asking our emerging generations to join our ministries and worship culture. To a millennial, that experience - like their time ministering in a nursing home - is over in about an hour.
So as a discussion starter for our Best Practices Facebook group, I'd like to extend these 5 focus questions Barna Group president, David Kinnaman challenged me as we spoke together at a recent event:
How is your community doing in these 5 areas of intergenerational ministry?
1. Cultivating meaningful relationships across generations?
2. Inspiring cultural discernment - showing how to pick from our culture with a heart of wisdom (cause...there's a lot of grey areas out there!)?
3. Promoting reverse mentoring: accepting the way our millenials reach out...to us?
4. Framing vocational discipleship - exemplifying how our calling intersects our daily 9-5 work lives?
5. Being tuned to God's voice, ourselves, as we authentically practice the presence of Christ daily?