Report #2. Practices for Forming Faith Intergenerationally

We have known for some time that a graded-level, schooling model of faith formation focused almost exclusively on children and youth, all by itself, fails to move the needle in the quest for effective faith transmission, i.e., passing faith to the next generation. Rather, a whole life approach that offers intergenerational programming and home/family learning options, along with age-specific efforts has a much greater chance of authentic and lasting faith transmission.

Research and other literature clearly indicate that intergenerational faith formation plays a crucial role in the faith transmission process, and every church should consider how to incorporate it in their faith formation efforts. This report can help. Our review of the literature on intergenerational faith formation can be capsulized in the following categories.

  1. Benefits of intergenerationality. The literature points to the significant value of intergenerational faith formation through such factors as the following: it strengthens faith and involvement for all ages, provides relationships beyond family, utilizes gifts and abilities of all, forms caring community, and passes on faith traditions. It’s worth the work.
  2. Research findings. In short, the research shows the importance of intergenerational connections, which benefits not just children and youth but emerging adults and all ages, and intentional intergenerational efforts which strengthen the vitality of church communities.
    Practical applications. There are a host of ways intergenerationality can be infused into church life, including worship, mentoring programs, multi-age/family learning programs, milestone events, service projects, and parent formation and involvement. Creativity, outside-the-box thinking, is key to finding the right application.
  3. Principles and strategies. What does it take to make it a reality? When a faith formation team is doing well with intergenerationality, they have embraced more than a few of these intentions: promoting Christian identity, building caring relationships, addressing developmental needs, employing varied and experiential methods, developing collaborative leadership, assessing current ministries, and starting small with experiments.
  4. Becoming intentionally intergenerational. Some key factors to keep in mind: it requires commitment over time, it must focus on belonging, learning, and serving together, and it must see intergenerationality as integral to church life and ministry.

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