First of all, the Bible speaks of it often. One of the core verses at RLA is, “Turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers” Mal. 4:6. And that is only one of many passages that speak to the need for intergenerational faith formation.
Secondly, because it makes a difference. It makes a difference on so many levels. To the young, it is wisdom and security. To the middle aged, it is support and vital relationship. To the mature, it is vitality and fresh perspective. There is not a group that does not benefit from the generations being together in relationship and faith formation.
Finally, because it could be the definer of someone’s eternity. We who have known and loved Jesus for a lifetime will not “miss out on heaven” if we do not connect with the generations behind us. For most, our eternal destiny is secure (though it won’t be nearly as much fun without the “littles”)
On the other hand, ever-growing bodies of research indicate that without strong intergenerational connections in the church, many children and youth will depart from the faith as they reach adulthood. In other words, their eternal destiny becomes very insecure without those connections. I’m not sure I understand all the nuances of “why” it is that way, but it is an observable truth.
And so it drives me… this vision to see the generations together in order to protect the young.
Because I see things. Like I see the generations re-embracing each other. I see a generation of youth that has been loved and nurtured and strengthened in the safety and security of the walls of God’s familyl. I see them rising up, not as a weak, barely hanging on, hardly saved group, but I see them leading in strength, knowing that the generations around them have got their back. I see an older generation re-awakened to their place of usefulness in the body of Christ. How great a loss the church has suffered as many of that generation have melted into the background feeling like their days of “usefulness” are over. I see the youth running to them for support, and I see them running to the youth for invigoration, reawakening, and even care. I see a church beginning to multiply among the “least of these” as we set them in families (Psalms 68:6), training and releasing our “people of honor” to be their spiritual foster parents. (Isaiah 49:23: Think Paul and Timothy!) I see more youth staying in the faith than leaving it. I see a nation looking at all of it and saying, “that is powerful”. I see the enemy looking at all of it and saying “that is my destruction”.
And I don’t just see it in our church…
As a church, River of Life is a pioneer in intergenerational ministry. And God is blessing in many ways. If the Lord tarries, I truly believe River of Life will be a flagship church, paving the way for other churches embarking on the intergenerational journey. May the Holy Spirit keep our hearts united and our bodies and minds engaged as we do the work of the ministry together!
Pastor Sheri Weston