Mr. & Mrs. Joy are saints of their local church. They are starting their 4th year as the lay persons leading Adult Christian Education in their local church. The email they sent said they were interested in speaking with someone to help them with intergenerational ministry. The email was sent to me and I was thrilled to have my first consultation of the New Year.
The first goal was to define what they understood as ‘intergenerational ministry.’ Through a couple of stories, they were looking for ways to attract millennials and Gen Zs to their church so they’d come to church on Sunday. What we finished with was something way greater than we ever imagined.
This we know: Folks in their 30s could possibly work every day of the week including Sundays. They may work on shifts where they work every other Sunday. Think Law enforcement and retail. They may also work before sunrise and until late in the night. Think the medical field and automotive market. They are desperate for community, but they may not have the margin nor the energy to go looking for new community, so they settle for community in environments where they need only bring a snack and a lawn chair OR the community they’ve curated at their fingertips on social media.
This we know: The average age of a first time grandparent is 47. What if we offered a place, a space, content, hope, tools to help them navigate in a Christian manner all the relationships involved to share their faith with their grandchildren? Especially if some are looking back with regret that they themselves didn’t put enough of a priority on intentional faith development of their now adult kids. Add in the challenges of in-laws, school, their own aging parents, and still working.
Let’s start a space like a closed Facebook group with curated scripture (Psalm 78 & Deuteronomy 6), some encouraging grandkid memes, Christian Grandparenting blogposts, a place where questions can be asked and where we can walk alongside one another several times each week at the grandparent’s leisure based on their schedule? Then offer a couple of times each year a way to gather in-person for encouragement, a little dessert, some show & tell and some resources? The local church can be that PLACE they go AS they go.
Those of us further down the age line know what’s coming. It won’t be long before the remarkable moments of life begin to occur like more weddings, more babies, separation, divorce, a diagnosis, a chronic illness, a betrayal, and the loss of those who have been their towers of strength in death. What will they do then? We know those moments are not just moments. Those moments are tipping points, turning points, and places where people move from placing Christian relationships from the margin to the main body. It’s a gift to offer sprinkles and multiple, regular, various touchpoints where they ARE RIGHT NOW because we all know it’s coming.
1 Peter 3:15, “Be ready to share the hope that we have.”
Let’s begin the pouring out and the pouring in to new relationships now where they are, rather than expecting these young adults to come to us? Let’s make it easier to start and build relationships OVER TIME by sending texts each week with scripture, postcards with where to find us on social media so as they find us in their social media feeds and in their notifications? Let’s move social media from a bulletin board of announcements to a little regular help along their way today.
Can we greet them when they do arrive on campus, because they will, at a remarkable moment, with a, “Man, I was thinking of you this week?” rather than hassling them with a, “Man, where you been?”
What can we do to take up regular space in their margin?
Let’s offer a Bible reading Facebook group rather than only weekly, in-person Bible study? Think of the differences between a football game in-person and that same football game from home. Both experiences are investments of time and brain margin and worthy of doing well and with excellence, yet the audiences are very different. Let’s reach their children (and grandchildren) in developmentally appropriate ways in-person, mail, drive-in, drive-thru where their parents or grandparents are the heroes, the guides. They don’t have time to curate the best developmentally appropriate content on their own, so let’s make that happen in simple, short, subscription-box ways where everything is provided.
Mr. & Mrs. Joy are fired up for the new possibilities. Their plan? To recruit several of their fellow disciples, saints of their local church, to do the pouring in to some of the relationships they already know of. Rather than a program of ‘y’all come’, they will gather an army for ‘hey, I’m here to walk alongside you wherever you are.’ Its training up those already there to be ambassadors for Jesus and not just ambassadors for their local church, with what’s in their hands, to the glory of God, with the good news of Jesus, sharing their own personal stories of God’s faithfulness.
This is great work of the local church.
An ambassador, according to the apostle Paul, is a representative, an agent, not just a spokesperson, but an example, a delegate, a deputy, and envoy, a mediator as found in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Let’s be willing to be sent out as an envoy for Jesus, an ambassador….with the message of Jesus! The Jesus who is the son of God, the Jesus who was there at creation, the Jesus who came from heaven to earth to forgive us of our sins, because of God’s great love for you and me and the world. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, He is with us where we go.
“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” Acts 4:33