Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    How Old is Your Youth Group?

    What do you think is the age of the oldest "kid" in my church's youth group? You might be surprised.

    When our youth group gathered one Sunday morning several weeks ago to study together "The Prodigal Son," I invited everyone to share about something they had or would inherit from their parents (other than money).  When it came time for Bill to share he said, "What I inherited from my parents is the importance of learning and discipline.  We used to sing about it in school."  Bill then proceeded to sing this song to the group:

    School days, school days
    Dear old Golden Rule days.
    Reading and writing and 'rithmetic,
    Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick.

    By the time Bill finished, a third of the class had joined him in singing the tune.  The rest of the class sat there, looking dumbfounded as to why they were being serenaded with some song they had never heard before -- a song actually written in 1907. Now, it might help to know that Bill is some 80+ years old and all his friends who joined him in singing are around the same age, while those who were being serenaded ranged in age from 13-18.  

    In a new experiment in intergenerational ministry, over the past few weeks we have invited our youth class and our eldest adult Sunday morning class to join together for an ongoing study of Jesus' parables.  Each week the group gathers together for fellowship, laughter (an occasional song!) and exploration of the Bible. The senior adults have welcomed the opportunity to get to know our teens better and our teens....well, would it surprise you if I said they were actually enjoying the experience? These teens are learning new things from our seasoned citizens that they would never have encountered barricaded in their youth room way off in another part of the church. Together this intergenerational bunch is excavating new insights from some of Jesus' oldest and at times most inexplicable teachings.  And perhaps best of all, these youth are building relationships with mature adult Christians who model what a life-long journey of faith looks like.   

    We've discussed in youth ministry circles for years the need to stop segregating our youth away from the rest of the Church and instead focus more on family-based and intergenerational ministry.  I'd say the time has come to stop talking and start doing. What about you? What adventures have you had in intergenerational ministry? Would it work in your church?  Would you be willing to give it a try?

    Coming Up: 10 Ideas for Creating Cross-generational Youth Ministry


    Matt Shedd said...

    I love this concept. Thanks for sharing it!

    Andy Blanks said...

    Brian, just wanted you to know we'll be featuring this on Flashback Friday here in a little bit. Such a cool idea . . .

    Ray Hausler said...

    That's good stuff. We're going to talk about this with our team. Then make it work.

    Joel Mayward said...

    I've had similar thoughts cross my mind, like a "seniors with seniors" study where we have our seniors in high school join our 60+ adults group. I'd love to hear the long-term results of this experience, like how many relationships were formed and lasted beyond the few weeks of study.

    bex said...

    We have been doing intergenerational ministry with Sunday school and youth group events for is wonderful!! The relationships our youth have built with the adults is so important to both generations.
    The adults on our ministry team reached out to kids in middle school and now, 5 years later, the roles are reversed. Some of these adults are going through some difficult times and the seniors in high school are the ones reaching out and lifting them up. It's pretty incredible to see. I could go on and on!!
    I wish you the best- our congregation has been so blessed by these relationships I hope you have the same experience.

    Chad McDaniel said...

    love these ideas. the closest we've come is in our volunteer team. for some reason, this year, we have more parents and empty nesters helping than the more typical, young singles! it's been pretty cool to see kids interact with people who have more life experience and who can be "parents" to those who don't have positive adult influences in their life. while the idea of having parents volunteer may not always be ideal, we are blessed in that the children of these parents LOVE it that their moms and/or dads are at youth group. it's been really fun to watch this be successful!

    Areli H. said...

    A year ago our youth group transitioned into full youth ministry. We went from Middle School/High School only group to opening our youth service to college and any singles in your congregation.
    We had an amazing result! Topics range but surprisingly apply to all! I highly encourage this process. We do have monthly meetings or fellowship activities geared to specific age ranges, but there isn't great need for them.

    To add, we are a Hispanic congregation. Some of our services are even bilingual, English and Spanish!

    These changes were once feared by many in our leadership, but now we see we were missing out!