Intergenerational Community Benefits Us All
I am a big advocate for getting people, regardless of age, to connect, worship, and serve together. I believe everyone can benefit from gathering together to build relationships grounded in faith. In fact, the Barna Group recently completed a study that found relationships were essential to spiritual formation. Students who built relationships with adults in the church were twice as likely to have an ongoing relationship with the church, were twice as likely to say church matters, and were three times as likely to read their Bible on their own. While this is very encouraging, the study found only 40% of students build these essential relationships. I am HOPEing (see what I did there?) to change that.
If you have spent time at Hope on a Sunday morning, you will notice noise and movement coming from the youth hallway during Sunday school.
It is important for our students to have time with their peers to develop Christian friendships, to study God’s word, to pray, and to serve together. But then you will notice our students join with the whole congregation for worship. Most of the time they sit together. Sometimes they sit with their families. Sometimes they perform skits with a Biblical message for the congregation. Sometimes they lead worship. Sometimes they serve alongside adults as ushers and greeters. We do not put an age limit on worship—from the tiny and young to the older and wiser—all are invited to gather together.
Spending time together and building relationships have many benefits. Over the past 70 years, research has shown that intergenerational relationships benefit not only our spiritual health, but our physical, emotional, and mental health as well. Here are a few of the benefits:
*Older adults burned more calories, performed better on memory tests, and had decreased feelings of isolation and depression when they spent time developing relationships with younger generations.
*Middle-aged adults saw better relationships with their parents and children, a more positive outlook, and a lower mortality rate when spending time with other generations.
*Teens and young adults had better social skills, more stability and enjoyment, higher academic achievement, and increased interest in serving when they developed relationships with older adults.
*Children had a greater willingness to help, greater empathy and social acceptance, and had decreased violence, drug and alcohol use when they had relationships with adults in the church.
There are many benefits of being a part of an intergenerational church community. We need to continue to create spaces and opportunities for generations to come together in worship, prayer, and service—to engage all generations in the mission of the church “so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they will put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.” Psalm 78.