Whitiora Bible Church members in the midst of Tandem Ministries Redemptive Family workshop.
“I’ve prayed for this, for maybe 10+ years—that we would have greater connection among the different generations at our church.”
Roanne McEwan is a volunteer serving the children and families of Whitiora Bible Church in Hamilton. Together, Whitiora Bible Church has been taking steps to help different generations in their church have opportunities to connect, with the aim of loving and serving each other.
“Last year we went through Tandem Ministries’ Redemptive Family workshop together. The aim of the workshop is to think about how we, as a church family, can reach out to share the good news about Jesus with our community.”
“Through the workshop discussion we realised our particular need to love and care for each other in a deeper way,” says Roanne, “we started Table Time; instead of starting church seated in rows, we’d sit at tables and spend 10 minutes chatting, 10 minutes answering a question (Who are you evangelising/reaching out to? Or a question related to that morning’s message), and 10 minutes praying together. People began to experience what they described as ‘greater welcome’”.
But lockdown interrupted this rhythm and the church went on Zoom, embracing the awkwardness of video-based connection and physically-distanced relationships. “After lockdown, we decided we wanted to have a celebration of returning to be together physically, and a time of re-focusing ourselves on where we’re heading as a church family.”
So, the church booked in a Sunday at their local campsite: Karakariki Christian Camp. The morning involved all the ‘normal’ parts of a Sunday worship service—singing, a message from the Bible etc. but with more time to interact face-to-face and lunch together afterwards.
Roanne and some of the team from Whitiora Bible Church.
“At the end, before lunch, we split into table groups, randomly assigned with each group made up of people from different generations. Each group answered questions: ‘How can I show love and encouragement to those in a different generation than me?’ Some groups broke down the generations into age brackets and answered each specifically, others just answered generally. The second question was ‘Who am I evangelising and praying for?’ and then each group spent time in prayer together.”
Roanne and the team collated the answers afterwards and were interested to see a number of common themes emerge in their answers. “There were some really useful comments and feedback on how to love and encourage people in different generations.”
The common themes were:
- Communication is important. Speak to people! If you are older, have a conversation with someone younger. Find out names of people you don’t know and take time to talk, or text throughout the week, or give a phone call.
- Connect over meals and show hospitality. Food stood out as a theme! Take a meal to someone, have them over for dinner, or take them out for a coffee or ice cream.
- Spend intentional time together. Organised activities such as meeting together in a park, going for a walk, or doing a working bee were ideas people had for ways to connect.
- Pray and read the Bible together. Using God’s Word as a starting point for conversation and prayer.
“This exercise helped us see places where there were needs and to think about how we can intentionally meet those needs. Younger generations specifically articulated their need to feel valued and included in the life of the Church family. To be heard and respected.”
Changing levels and COVID-19 restrictions have not made things easy though, “we’re still very much a work-in-progress,” says Roanne, “at this stage we’ve got a monthly challenge happening, such as ‘Talk to someone from three different generations on a Sunday morning’”.
The team also noticed a need for connection among younger and older women, so started up a new women’s Bible study, “we’ve now got 12 ladies meeting regularly and, at week two, a younger woman told us she had become a believer! The others in the group helped explain the gospel of Christ clearly, are now discipling her together, and she was baptised this past Sunday. Another lady is bringing along her daughter-in-law, who is not a Christian, but keen to learn.”
Intergenerational connection is a commonly expressed desire in many churches, and Roanne’s advice is to think and pray big, and start on something manageable—then see where God prompts you:
“Pray about one person who’s younger that God might have you connect more closely with. Ask for God to guide you and show you opportunities. My advice to anyone hoping to encourage intergenerational ministry would be to trust that God will work in his timing and pray humble prayers of faith—you’ll often feel weakness or lack of resources! Ask for wisdom to know how to invest your energy and time. God has fully supplied the strength needed when I took the step of faith to obey his promptings.”