Bringing Generations Together in Partnership
Back in 1989, the One Great Hour of Sharing program adopted the theme: Partners in God’s New Creation. A member of the congregation I served suggested we build on this theme with congregation-wide OGHS activities that focused on partnership across the congregation and across the globe.
Members in this congregation were familiar with the annual Lenten One Great Hour of Sharing offering. Families and adults faithfully used the OGHS season-long calendar which contained daily suggestions for thinking and praying about human needs across the globe. Many in the congregation contributed monies in OGHS globe- or fish-shaped banks. These were collected and monies given toward helping human needs. Our OGHS partnership activities built upon the active participation and giving that already existed in the congregation.
Working with the Christian Education and Mission committees, we envisioned activities to encourage partnership between children and adults in the congregation. In these partnerships, participants would learn about, pray for, and give to partners across the globe who helped to meet human needs.
We matched children in the church with active adult members who would talk with each other and pray for one another during the season of Lent. Families gave permission and were involved with the partnership formation activities, so children were never alone with an unfamiliar adult. Each person in each partnership used the OGHS giving calendar and banks as vehicles for praying and giving toward needs beyond themselves.
We began the program by identifying adults willing to partner with children in the congregation. We also connected with families to inform them of the partnership program and gain permission for their child(ren) to participate. In most cases, parents of children given permission to participate also volunteered to serve as partners for another child. This ensured parental involvement in the program and hands-on familiarity with our partnership activities.
Once adult and child participants were identified, the planning committee matched partners. With this program, our aim was to have a child forming a partnership with a non-related adult to foster relationships in the church for children beyond their own families. We contacted each partner with the name of their matched friend and informed each parent of the assigned partnership, as well. We created a bulletin board using extra OGHS banks on which we printed the names of each partner pairing. This display encouraged the partnerships and allowed for public accountability of adults with their “assigned” children.
At the start of Lent, we hosted a kick-off event on a Sunday morning, between church school and worship, where partners met each other, received their OGHS bank and calendars, and prayed together. We encouraged adult partners to reach out to their child partner each week during Lent to touch base on their calendar collection, to pray for one another, and to pray for the human needs they were learning about from their OGHS calendars. Our hope was for partners to have face-to-face meet ups before or during Sunday morning church school and worship activities, rather than to encourage out-of-church meetings.
Each week during Lent, we used bulletin inserts, Minute for Mission announcements, and Children’s sermon topics to highlight One Great Hour of Sharing. Members who did not participate in the partnership program were encouraged to use the OGHS banks and calendars for personal prayer and giving.
During Holy Week, we held a congregational dinner and invited all partners and families to attend. At the dinner, we encouraged partners to sit together to share the meal. We offered cross-generational activities after dinner in which partners participated together (puzzle making for partners and children ages 5-10 years, simulation activities for partners and children ages 11+). Families who were not matched as partners were welcome to participate in either activity. We closed the evening with worship and collection of OGHS banks.
On Easter morning, we reported the OGHS monies collected and dedicated these during worship. This continued the theme showing that our prayers, partnerships, and giving extending beyond our congregation to do God’s work in the world; to do God’s work in places where we, ourselves, cannot be.
The OGHS partnership focus made such a positive impact in this congregation that they continued these activities as a Lenten focus even after I moved from serving this church. In addition to fostering relationships across generations in the church, the OGHS partnership program built upon a familiar giving emphasis that the church already supported and extended its reach and meaning to young people and children in the congregation.
Beth Herrinton-Hodge is a certified Christian educator and teaching elder in the PC(USA). After serving congregations for 20+ years, she now works with seminary students at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary as director of their Academic Support Center.