From Multi-Generational to Inter-Generational
By Ps Dev Menon
For a number of years, the goal of many churches has been to become multi-generational, in the sense that we try to ensure that different age groups are present within the same space – such as a worship service.
However, when we look at fellowship groups – such as AGs or other relational ministries – you notice that people quickly revert to being mono-generational (especially when there is a choice which group to join). This could indicate that those decade-long muti-generational settings tend to facilitate merely “superficial or polite interactions, where people tend to tolerate one another. There is no sense of shared mission or meaningful relationships”.
One way of diagnosing that something is lacking, is when we see youth or young adults leaving the church, or seniors getting more neglected and/or isolated.
It is like a big family that emphasizes regular gatherings, but few have deep or effective conversations across age groups. In fact, when we #getreal in sharing our thoughts and opinions, there is often conflict. This is because, despite being in the same family, “each generation has been shaped by different formative forces, resulting in a situation where each views life and faith differently”. It is easier to have a nice family photo then to want to engage, listen, empathise, and even change for the sake of one another.
In the body of Christ, there are many parts. The Spirit has designed all those parts to be necessarily different so that there can be effective proclamation of the whole gospel to the whole world by the whole church.
However, in order to reach this ideal, we must begin by acknowledging difference. It is important to create settings where the voices, needs and opinions of each generation are heard – so that each knows they are not alone, each knows their value in the Kingdom (also true for ethnicity and gender).
Then the hard work truly begins – how do we have facilitated dialogues, so that we hear each other out – without filtering through our own lenses, without one generation dominating the conversation, or the conflict becoming too heated? These are essential steps if we want to become inter-generational, where we desire more than being in the same geographical space. We want to get to state where we are ministering alongside one another, and even leveraging the different ages for more effective discipleship and more creative gospel ministry.
Yet we can embark on this long and often painful journey because we know we already have a spiritual unity in Christ. The Spirit has done the work of bringing us together, and so we can trust that He will continue to give us the resources to make this more of a lived reality. More than that, we can trust that as we continue to seek the Father’s will, He will continue to enlighten our hearts, so that we will know the riches of the glorious inheritance we have – in the saints.