The Multi-Directional Blessings of Intergenerational Integration

After youth group one night, my son told me the highlight was that one of the adult leaders shared her testimony. 

“Mom, I had no idea that Auntie Sue went through all that.” (We attend a Chinese church, and ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’ is how kids address adults). 

Never having heard Sue’s testimony myself, I asked my son what she said. In the car ride home, he summarized Sue’s story, his sister interjecting to fill in the gaps. It was clear from their eagerness to share with me that they had listened closely, with great interest. 

As I drove, we talked about how everyone struggles with sin, even exemplary older adults who are everything teenagers sometimes feel they are supposed to become. We affirmed to each other “how cool” it was that God does and will always love us, because our sin is defeated thanks to Jesus. 

By the time we got home, the blessing of hearing God’s personal grace to a sister had multiplied in reach—starting with youth group and then making its way over to edify me, a parent.

The Blessing of Grace-filled Stories From Older Generations

Youth minister, when you include older aunties and uncles in your ministry, the blessings multiply in many directions. Students get to see the words and actions of faithful believers and gain a physical, embodied visual of mature character. They get to hear stories of grace forged through trials that span decades, that grow their concept of God’s patience, faithfulness, and wisdom. They can more firmly grasp how no one, at any point in time, is exempt from needing Jesus. 

By making space for testimonies from a variety of perspectives, you’re enriching teenagers’ repertoire of grace-filled stories, building up their collection of testaments to God’s goodness and favor toward his people. Our children will be able to draw from this bank of encouragement all their years, well after they have outgrown youth group.

The Blessing of Youthful Exuberance From Younger Generations

Different generations rubbing shoulders together blesses not only the youth, but the adults, too. Older church members benefit from the exuberance and energy of the young. On a recent baptism Sunday, I was once again reminded of the delight of hearing the raucous cheers of teenagers celebrating the baptisms of their friends. Their shouts call us older and less-expressive folks to “rejoice and rejoice again” because we have much reason to be glad. 

That day, the unbridled clamor of the youth induced a ripple of chuckles and laughter across the auditorium. The entire atmosphere lightened like a breeze had blown through the room. If we were sleepy to the miracle of God calling people to himself that morning, the noise of the teenagers shook us out of our stupor. They had vocalized, in their own way, a church’s joy in beholding the fruit of what Jesus had done. Everyone walked away blessed for it.

Some Practical Ideas for Intergenerational Integration

Cultivating intergenerational relationships takes time and perseverance. Both young and old may feel uncomfortable and unsure about it, and the relatively greater effort required to grow these connections dissuades people from even wanting to try. 

But helping the generations connect doesn’t always necessitate a big change like overhauling a ministry or creating a new program. Youth minister, you can help the generations connect using the time and space present in existing ministries. Helping students and adults in your church bless one another begins with creating opportunities for them to see each other as more than “church strangers.” Here are some practical ideas to increase interaction between the generations:

  • When building a team of volunteers for something task or project oriented, consider asking a mixture of students and adults. These opportunities could include setting up chairs for a room, preparing food for an event, planning a fundraiser for a missions organization. Teenagers and adults will strengthen relationships as they work side-by-side together.   
  • Be a connector. Learn who can join you in building bridges (students and adults), and team up together to help young and old connect. One generation has needs that can be met so perfectly by the care of another, but needs remain unknown and unmet if someone does not draw them together. College students appreciated the ‘exam care packages’ that an adult group made for them during exam season. High schoolers can get to know a family by babysitting the children of single parents. Grandparents can do the school pickup for their sick neighbors. Giving and receiving help illustrates how the “one body” of the church functions, and our hearts grow as we provide care with our hands.
  • Keep an eye out for any opportunities where age-specific ministries can invite one another in. Do you know someone that can speak from experience on a topic relevant to your students? Maybe a group of adults can come to youth group to do a panel on being faithful in the workplace. Women’s or men’s ministries can invite the female and male high school or college students for a night of fun and fellowship. After church-wide events or guest speakers, always provide coffee/tea/snacks after so that everyone can mingle and connect.

The Blessing and Challenge of Church as Family

Being family links us together, sometimes in discomfort, by something stronger than our individual choices. Our church family is our forever family. We are bound together not by bloodlines, but by Jesus’ blood that saves us to a unity in the Spirit (Eph. 4). We must persevere in bearing with one another and learning to love one another even when it’s challenging. 

Perhaps the fullest blessing to be had in doing so, is that we parents and our kids see more clearly that God blesses us in ways we never knew we wanted, through the family members we never knew we needed.

If you’re looking to grow in gospel-centered youth ministry, consider applying for our August 2024 Youth Ministry Mentorship Cohort.

Connie was born in Hong Kong and has lived in Alberta, Canada since she was 6 years old. She has served in youth ministry for over 10 years and is a leader in the college fellowship at her church in Edmonton. She also works with a Guatemalan missions organization. Connie enjoys warm weather, her husband’s cooking, and chatting with friends over a hot cup of tea. She and her husband Chris have 1 teenager, 2 kids and a ridiculous number of houseplants.

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