We now have a new theme high on the agenda within the church in the Netherlands. “Connecting generations”. Following the national struggle surrounding the ‘previous’ theme of ‘discipleship’, more and more essential questions are emerging that make us think about the DNA of the church. If we want to make disciples, we need a healthy church that cares and works with each other as a family. Being and experiencing church with all generations does not come naturally and it is not easy either. But it is possible!
This Blog is a follow-up to my previous blog from last March 27. https://www.royalmission.nl/2015/03/de-generatiekloof-in-de-kerk/
I want to use the metaphor of “church as a family” to get practical around the theme of connecting generations. An incredible number of processes occur within a family, positive and negative. Yet the common thread of a family is that you belong together, it is God’s intention that you get back up after a fall and work together. You need each other to grow in relationships within the family.
Being a family is also a Biblical image for the church and is outlined by Paul. You can deduce this from the fact that Paul often calls us as believers in his letters God’s children, with God as Father. He also says that you can only become a leader of a church if you can lead your own family well. In this way he immediately draws a parallel between the two.
In Paul’s time (and for a long time afterwards) it was common for all generations to live together in one house, parents, grandparents and children. Each other was taken care of. That is a principle that must increasingly take shape in our consciousness and in practice in the coming years.
Caring for each other and working together is of course a wonderful principle within the church. Only, how do you do that in 2015? Each(!) denomination struggles with it. Over the past 20 years I have worked and trained in a variety of churches from Pentecostal to PKN and from Baptist to evangelical. It is a challenge in all municipalities. That is, ironically, actually nice, because it connects the church in thinking about its future in the Netherlands.
How can you then close the gap between the generations? The key word in the solution is already mentioned in ‘our’ new church theme, namely the word connect. We must ask what unites generations and not emphasize what divides them. Connection is found in common ideas, interests, hobbies, habits, experiences and language. If you think together about what connecting elements there are between old and young, you will come up with surprising ideas. Ask and answer these questions in your own municipality and experience the process together.
A few examples of possible elements that connect:
– To eat
Since last September I have been visiting the prayer group in Jistrum. A group of older ladies have been meeting there twice a week for 20 years to pray. When I came, on the one hand they really liked it, but because I also contributed to the evening it also became something new. Because we had a shared passion and prayed for the church and the world, color and expectation returned. As a relatively young person, I really enjoy coming there and experiencing the connection.
Jistrum has also been actively considering this issue for a number of years. We recently organized a meal in combination with Bingo to raise money for an activity in teen work. For the whole village. The hall was completely full. This gave a nice yield 3 times. 1) It raised about 500 euros. What I thought was important afterwards was 2 and 3. 2) Old and young enjoyed a very nice evening together with food and a hilarious game moment. Finally, we also reached 3) people from the village who enjoyed coming!
In Twijslerheide, a group from the municipality has been going abroad with a World Servants project for years. These are life-changing events where young and old connect by experiencing an impressive adventure. The actions that are held also create connections with the municipality. Very nice to see that young and old are involved in this way.
Every year a volleyball tournament is organized by all churches in the Twijslerheide region. A group of young people and a few elderly people from Twijslerheide are participating in this. By exercising and hanging out with each other, a nice connection is created in a relationship and not primarily in a church service.
However, it is important to note that, with the exception of the prayer example, these are incidental matters. To build a church that connects generations, it is necessary to do and experience things together on a regular basis, I think monthly. If you do something together 2 or 3 times a year, the municipality still does not have the idea that you are close to each other.
Perhaps you have noticed that I do not mention the Sunday service as a binding element. This could be possible. In my experience, not on a weekly basis, but on a monthly or quarterly basis, organizing a service together that is appealing to every member of the family; There are also possibilities here.
In addition, it remains very important to do things in separate age groups. For example, teenagers need to have fun with peers at their own level and to experience and discover their faith. For example, the elderly also find it very pleasant to have singing services with songs in which they completely identify with themselves and can fully experience their faith.