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?