Planning Intergenerational Formation

Four of the volumes of my Faithful Celebration series books.

Many of the formative experiences in life happen when several generations are together. Think about it – when were you fully engaged in learning about Jesus or living out your Baptismal Covenant? Surely it wasn’t when you were alone. Perhaps it was in serving others or immersed in a worship service. Most likely there was more than one generation present. In our society we tend to separate people by age mainly for education and employment. In the recent past, Christian formation programs have made the same separation of generations, but more and more formation educators are offering programs in which adults and children learn together. It is a way to pass on faith – generation to generation. Old learn from young, and young learn from old.

While Sunday mornings may still sadly be the most segregated time in our country (at least for mainline church-goers), it is the most generationally diverse time many of us experience all week. Our worship involved young and old, and every age in-between at worship.

My colleague Eduardo Solomón Rivera recently shared his 7 Steps Toward Intergenerational Discipleship in the Episcopal Church Foundation’s March 2019 newsletter. He shares:

Over the past 30 years, good work has been done exploring intergenerational discipleship, or what author and church consultant John Roberto calls intergenerational faith formation. In this approach all ages in the congregation come together to learn, worship, serve and play, rather than meeting in their respective age groups. Researchers are finding that the traditional ways we have gone about Christian formation and discipleship, organizing by age and stage, have contributed to new generations that do not identify with their religious tradition and leave or ‘graduate’ from church when they become adults.

I’ve enjoyed planning intergenerational events, going back thirty years when I called them “Rainbow Events” at a parish where I served as the Christian educator. All ages (we held education between services even then) met in the Undercroft (large basement space of the church) where a variety of stations were set up around the room. Some might think of my set-up as a rotation model, but on these Sundays we focused on one topic such as Holy Eucharist, parables, saints, Holy Week, Pentecost, or a service project. Volunteers “manned” each station and families, or mixes of all ages, rotated among them. We always began as a group with a unifying biblical story to set the stage and help make connections.

It was with all this in mind that I created the Faithful Celebration series – making time for God with all ages together. I tapped into my old lesson plans from those Rainbow Events as well as ideas from others. The fifth volume: Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for Family and Friends just released (April 17 is the official pub date); it focuses on spring and summer secular celebrations (like Earth Day and Summer Solstice) that we can bring a faith perspective. The final volume (#6 – Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints) is now in production and will come out in July 2019. It will focus on “saints” we normally don’t celebrate: Absalom Jones of Philadelphia, Patrick of Ireland, Julian of Norwich, Joan of Arc, Enmegahbowh of White Earth, and Nicholas of Myra.

In these books I’ve tried to create easy to implement ideas for creating an intergenerational event, whether it be at your church, in your home, or in your neighborhood. Each chapter begins with an introduction that includes background material and key ideas for each celebration. The pages that follow are organized by type of activity, such as an opening prayer, story, craft, food, drama, music, game, or more. Each celebration always concludes with a closing activity of prayer. Each of the six volumes focus on a theme – mostly surrounding a season or two. But they are all meant to be flexible in scope, planning, date, and time frame.

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. –Ephesians 4:15-16

As an author, I have not been as proactive as “my” authors with whom I work with as an editor in promoting their books. I encourage them to reach out to friends, family, and colleagues to share news of their book and ask folks to write reviews on Amazon. It really helps! So I’m taking the opportunity here to ask you to write an endorsement of any or all of my Faithful Celebration books (and any others while you’re at it). Here are links to each of the books on Amazon and check out my Amazon Author Page. Thanks in advance!

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