by Corrie Berg

An intergenerational day of community service. All hands needed. All ages welcome.

What could be better? It punches all the Christian education tickets. It mixes the young and old, includes our children in the gospel-mandate to care for others, and strengthens our bonds of fellowship while extending arms to others. It’s a win, win, win!

The concept is compelling but, like much in intergenerational ministry, the details can be confounding. What time should its start? How long should it last? What day should it take place? Do we serve food? Do we offer nursery care?? Can the 2’s & 3’s actually help? Does organizing crayons and fun foam pieces for church school classrooms REALLY count as mission? What sounds so natural and what should be an organic extension of our love for Christ and one another can be a rather exhausting experience even in the planning phase.

Intergenerational mission is awesome and can certainly do all those wonderful things listed above. But thinking through the little details ensures the larger message is communicated. Our church has held a Morning of Mission on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for several years. It is (now) a much-anticipated, joyful event with great participation from all generations. Here are some lessons learned as we continue to refine the program.

  • Program title should be catchy and descriptive, but not too cute. Our event was initially titled Mission in a Day. Feedback communicated that the title suggested that our Christian calling to mission could easily be completed in just one day of service a year. Event was renamed the following year to Morning of Mission.
  • Schedule the event on a school-free weekday but not over a longer break. Columbus Day, teacher conventions or MLK Day are great options. Most families will not be traveling and are happy to have an outing for their children.
  • Aim for a critical mass in a concentrated timeframe. Families are more inclined to participate if friends will be there at the same time.
  • Yes to nursery. Parents with children of different ages will appreciate having young ones (infants to age 2) in a happy place while participating in projects with older siblings.
  • Yes to snacks. A hungry helper is not a happy helper.
  • Keep a “Notes for Next Year” file. You will love yourself for keeping a list of Do Agains and Do Betters from last year when planning next year.
  • Budget for this day. Not all materials can and should be donated by participants. Our Morning of Mission is heavily under-written by the church.

Finally, what projects and for what purpose? And here lies the biggest challenge. What can both young and older hands do that truly benefits the larger community?  We decided projects should support outside organizations (sorting fun foam in not mission. Our one exception aids our Deacon ministry to people who are shut-in. Tables or multi-table stations are set up with each station featuring an activity for participants.  Some stations are geared toward younger participants and others require a bit more maturity. Below is an overview of past projects:

  1. Sack lunches for a local soup kitchen. This is the most preparation-heavy station. The number of lunches and ingredients needed must be estimated, purchased and delivered beforehand. Our sack lunches contain peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, an allergy-alert is necessary.
  2. Fringed-fleece pet blankets for an animal shelter. Bolts of fleece are purchased, and volunteers cut fleece into prescribed lengths and tie fringe to assemble blanket. This project is a winner because many hands can participate on one blanket, and it takes a while.
  3. Coloring calendars for a detention facility. We create and print Color-Your-Own calendars. Participants color some pages in the calendar and send them to local detention facilities.
  4. Creativity Kits for homeless shelter. Participants are asked to bring basic art materials. Donated materials are then assembled into individual Creativity Kits (crayons/markers, activity or coloring book, stickers in a decorated craft bag) for children whose families are receiving aid from local shelter. Children must often wait while parents are interviewed, and Creativity Kits provide a much-needed distraction.
  5. Personal Care products for food pantry. Participants donate full-size and trial-size care products. Trial size are grouped together in “grab gift bags” for food pantry clients. Full-sized are distributed as needed.
  6. Homemade cards for the Deacon ministry. Children and adults create cards that our included in Deacon Ministry visits. Sample cards and word phrasing are helpful here.
  7. Placemats for Meals on Wheels. 11×17 sheets of paper are decorated with seasonally-fun stickers and drawings. Paper is then laminated and distributed as a placemat with a delivered meal.

Corrie Berg is the Director of Children’s and Family Ministries at Nassau Presbyterian Church. She attended Jamestown University, a Presbyterian liberal arts college, majoring in Religion and English Literature. A highlight of her work is telling Bible stories to attentive children (and adults). It brings together her love of good literature, and her commitment to passing on the stories of our faith to the next generation.