There’s great joy in seeing multiple generations working together for the cause and kingdom of Christ. How will you lead your church well?
By Aaron Summers
What kind of legacy will you leave? As we remember how former generations tirelessly worked and made sacrifices so we could be in this moment, we must ask ourselves, “What will we leave for the next generations?”
Is your church’s programming primarily generation driven? Is the ministry isolated in age-graded systems? If so, are you ready to move from chaos to cohesion, turf wars to teamwork, and cliques to collaboration? Let me give you eight ideas using the acrostic LEAD WELL.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Proverbs 4:23, CSB).
The Bible calls us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I have watched the church develop a sense of high loyalty but not always in a loving way. Today’s families will not give their commitment until they witness and experience our love for God and others.“Today's families will not give their commitment until they witness and experience our love for God and others.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
At our church, we’ve adopted a code of conduct. We cannot mandate love. However, we can direct people to a loving position. We chose five words that reflect how we want to behave for the community to see our love: accept, recognize, inspire, serve, and evangelize. What words would you choose?
“Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance” (Proverbs 11:14, CSB).
For the church to flourish, there needs to be more engagement across the generations. The senior adults and the “almost” senior adults invested their time, money, and energy in the church’s work. Now, the time has come to lead the next ones for the work and cause of Christ. The knowledge base among older generations is tremendous and should be passed on to the next generations. However, we must be careful to bring the younger groups alongside us and guide them, not just dump information on them.
Our church aggressively works to have multiple generations on committees and teams for engagement. How are you engaging multiple generations at your church?
The same Proverb verse suits this idea also. Proverbs 11:14 speaks of guidance and counselors. The church needs to bring various ages together and lead listening sessions. However, a little upfront training is necessary for all ages to listen well. The first step is helping each group understand one another. This could be through sharing the various truths of each generation.
Another option would be to ask a question and see how each generation answers. For example, “How do you like to learn in small groups?” Usually, senior adults like lectures, while middle-aged adults want the freedom to explore and collaborate. Should you ask, the youngest in your church will likely tell you YouTube is where they learn everything. How can you establish active listening in your church?
Develop mentoring relationships
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1, CSB).
Training the next generation of Christ-followers is messy but necessary. There is a belief among many senior adults that the younger ones don’t like them. However, that is not true. Sure, there are outliers, but the trend among parents and college-aged adults is their desire to have a mentor. The obstacles are how each group conveys and retains information. Helping both sides understand the learning styles that dominate each group will help in mentoring.
Our church has started a new ministry of one-on-one mentoring. The purpose is to lead people to engage across generations and to provide discipleship opportunities. One rule we use is that there needs to be a generation gap between both people. What other ideas could extend discipleship beyond the small group hour?
“The diligent hand will rule, but laziness will lead to forced labor” (Proverbs 12:24, CSB).
Let’s face it; ministry takes work. Leading well always does. This idea is strategic: Get multiple generations together for a project. Over the years, church leaders have encouraged small groups to do ministry together. This idea is fabulous, but it isolates our people into ministry silos. These silos can take on their own life and create turf wars. Getting multiple generations to go together and accomplish a project will increase the flow of ideas and energy by creating or deepening the bonds of friendship through ministry.“Getting multiple generations to go together and accomplish a project will increase the flow of ideas and energy by creating or deepening the bonds of friendship through ministry.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
Our church has partnered with the code enforcement office of our community. When a violation is pending, the office will call to see if we can help. We have a group that will handle it with two or three generations working together. What opportunities do you know of that could allow several generations to work together?
“The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it” (Proverbs 18:15, CSB).
Most churches struggle with evangelism. I have discovered many have a heart for it but don’t know how to get the conversation going. I hear people talk about needing more training. We have all the training we need, but there is still a gap.
For a modern culture, evangelism needs to recognize that biblical literacy is much lower than it used to be. Most evangelism products in my lifetime have a presupposed biblical awareness. This gap is where trust falls.
We need to close this gap through compassionate ministries. We join the community and find ways to show love and care for widows, orphans, and those who are poor. Through this, and over time, those in our community will begin to soften, and relationships can be forged. Evangelism for this century is less door-to-door and more heart-to-heart. What ideas do you have for closing the gap?
“A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, CSB).
This idea for leading well returns to the need for building relationships. Your church can be friendly at the door, but would they befriend that person? Do you see the difference? Leading well for the future will be partially defined by our ability to make friends. Finding your people is essential.“Leading well for the future will be partially defined by our ability to make friends.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
When someone gets connected, they will bring their friends to you. This is not a membership class or lunch and learn. Lingering means intentionally befriending someone. We open our closed circle of friends to engage a new person. In what ways could you linger better?
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22, CSB).
Why don’t we laugh more together? The serious tone found in churches today creates difficulties. Do you have that one guy who seems to prefer if the kids empty their pockets before entering worship? Do you have that group that complains about the “noisy” kids? I have had them. Some people need to learn to laugh again.
One way of doing this is to help people intentionally find the positive, or joy, in someone else. Sometimes, during the welcome statement, I will instruct everyone to find a partner and say two nice things about the other person. Joy has been lost in our churches, and joy is what the next generation demands. Yes, some will believe it’s just “fun.” But what’s wrong with having fun together?
Our church has a game night once a month for the whole church. What are you doing to help people enjoy each other?
These eight ideas help our people make connections that last. There is great joy in seeing multiple generations working together for the cause and the kingdom of Christ. That’s a legacy I would like to leave for the church. Sit down with your leadership team and explore these ideas. Let us lead well into the future.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.