Intergenerational Christian Formation by Holly Allen and Christine Ross

Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross is an important book. Anyone with an interest in helping people of ANY age grow in Christ should read it. The typical church in North America today with its age-segregated paradigm needs to rethink its rationale and consider whether its strategies are being driven by worldly models of success rather than a truly biblical model of community. Allen and Ross have argued in a balanced, thoughtful, and convincing fashion that “intergenerational faith communities are God-designed places for Christian formation” (p. 270). I agree with them. Intergenerational ministry needs to be given much greater attention and consideration within our churches for a number of reasons that Allen and Ross make clear.

A Comprehensive Text

Intergenerational Christian Formation is also a comprehensive book, offering “biblical, theological, sociological, empirical, developmental and anecdotal support for the idea that age-integrated faith communities are places of spiritual blessing to all concerned…” (p. 178). Because it is so comprehensive, many of you will not need to read all of it. Still, if you care about helping any church strengthen its core mission, you should get the book and read the portions that you likely will find most relevant. Let me provide some direction…

If You’re a Parent…

Holly and Christine (the authors) both share your heart for raising godly children. Listen to them. Start by reading chapters 1, 2, and 3. They’re short and easy to read. Simply understanding how the North American church became age-segregated (chapter 2) should challenge any serious Christian to be concerned. Then read chapter 5 for a great summary of the biblical foundations of an intergenerational mindset. After that, go to the table of contents and look at the chapter headings for Part Four: Intergenerational Christian Formation Practices. See which chapter interests you most and read it. By this point you can consider what to do next. Keep reading or consider passing the book along to your Senior Pastor (or appropriate staff person or church member) with the following suggestions.

If You’re a Senior Pastor…

Read chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8. These chapters will challenge you, but not take lots of your time. Then read chapter 13, “Creating a Culture of Intergenerationality.” Is it time to think about doing church differently? You’re busy. I understand. Leading a transition of this nature will not be easy, but God has not called you to take the easy path. Could this be how God intends for your church to be the body of Christ in your community in this time. Is it time to consider intergenerational ministry?

If You’re a Teacher in Your Church…

Consider that there may be a better (and more enjoyable) way to help your learners grow in Christ. Read chapters 1, 2, and 3. This should open your eyes to the possibilities. Then read chapter 7, “Midwives, Tailors and Communities of Practice.” Don’t be swayed by phrases like “sociocultural learning theory” and names you can’t pronounce. Keep reading. You’ll see that this all makes great sense if you want your teaching to make a difference.

If You’re a Christian Educator…

Block out a few hours of time. This is worth it. Review the table of contents. Mark the chapters that look interesting. Then read Part One and Part Two. Skim the appendices to be familiar with the wealth of information gathered for you. Think about what you should do next. Discuss the implications with your spouse, a colleague, or trusted friend. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. God has given us “the wheel” in His Word. Consider how an intergenerational paradigm can become part of your own thinking. Keep this book easily accessible on your book shelf. You’ll be coming back to it more than once.

Allen and Ross haven’t given us the final word on intergenerational ministry, but this is likely the most comprehensive text to date. More churches will be coming on board. More research needs to be done. Still, whatever your interest level may be, Intergenerational Christian Formation will challenge and inform you.

Rick Edwards
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher

See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.

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