It’s Sunday morning and the youth Sunday school teachers are MIA.

It’s Sunday morning and the children’s Sunday school teachers are accounted for, but no young people are to be found.

It’s Sunday morning and traditional Sunday school has become a thing of the past.

If these scenarios resonate, perhaps it’s time to consider a new arena for Christian faith formation. What if the early Christian church described in Acts became the model for this arena with an emphasis on deepening intergenerational, Christ-centered community? 

“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” (Acts 2:42 CEB).

Before we explore further, let’s establish a working definition of intergenerational ministry. “Intergenerational ministry nurtures Christ-centered community, by bringing together two or more generations, in planned and purposeful settings, where all are mutually invested(GenOn Ministries). So, it’s not multigenerational with various ages simply being in the same space together. Also, the traditional roles of teacher and student shift, and by design all are invested in leading and learning together.

What could this new arena for Sunday morning Christian faith formation look like? Picture this setting. Participants are seated together around tables, each with a mix of ages and generations. Food is communal. Participants are reading scripture and sharing responses to “wondering” questions. There’s time to pray and fellowship together, and intergenerational Christ-centered community is strengthened.

Using materials designed with Acts 2:42 in mind, generations can come together around tables for four activities: breaking bread together, playing together, praying together, and studying the Bible together. One or two people serve as facilitators for each gathering. These leaders ensure smooth transitions between activities, and that table groups have all the information and supplies needed.

Here is a practical example detailing an intergenerational gathering for faith formation.

Gathering Together: Balloon Dance – Upon arrival, music to “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” by James Manley is playing, and inflated red, orange and yellow balloons are available. Participants move or dance to keep balloons floating on air.

Breaking Bread Together: A prepared snack or meal is ready to serve. Tables are decorated with doves, kites or streamers. A blessing is offered before serving the food. Participants enjoy time to deepen relationships around the table using the suggested conversation starters. For example, “Share the different languages participants can speak and understand. Are there some languages for which participants know only a few words?”

Studying God’s Word Together: At each table an introduction is read to give the setting and context for the scripture passages. Participants read Acts 2:1-15 and Acts 2:36-41. They explore suggested wondering questions together. For example, “Wonder together how we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.”

Playing Together: Flame Headband – At each table each participant creates a headband to resemble the flames dancing on the heads of the apostles at Pentecost and assist each other to attach them, or participants create ribbon wands using dowels sticks and ribbon. 

Praying Together: Using the items from Playing Together, participants sing and dance to live or recorded music of “The Trees of the Field” by Steffi Geiser Rubin and Stuart Dauermann. A responsive prayer is read to conclude.

What are the benefits of creating this type of arena for Christian Education? 

  • The need for multiple teachers is reduced. 
  • Preparation is simplified. 
  • Intergenerational community and Christ-centered relationships have time to develop. 

How are churches implementing such an approach?

  • As a replacement for Sunday morning Sunday school for all, or for select groups 
  • As an addition to traditional Sunday school, monthly, or during the summer months or holidays 
  • For seasonal fellowship gatherings on other days of the week 
  • As an alternative to Vacation Bible School 

For more information about this approach to faith formation, visit GenOn Ministries website to view LIFT (Living In Faith Together). Also available are LIFT Scope and Sequence and a free LIFT sample lesson!

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Betsy Dishman

has served congregations for over 30 years in music and worship, children, youth, and family ministry positions. Currently, she enjoys her work as Training Director for GenOn Ministries, a 501(c)3 non-profit helping churches cultivate community through intergenerational ministry ([email protected]).