I have just finished teaching through the book of Ecclesiastes. In 30 years of preaching, I have never preached through the book and I am amazed at the practical lessons for our culture. One of the lessons that had the greatest impact on me was the need to focus on what we have right now. Life is short and the focus needs to be on appreciating what God has given me at this moment in time. I must see it as an incredible gift from Him. I see a tremendous application for small church ministry. So for the next few months, I am going to focus on the great things about being in a small church ministry in no particular order.
Inter Generational Ministry.
I was raised in large churches where teaching and worship were often segregated and we learned the value of surrounding ourselves with like minded peers. It helped me to learn how to choose good friends, but I did not gain a lot of wisdom from someone who was my age. I needed wisdom from someone who had experienced all that life has to throw at them.
As my sons moved out and got married, I encouraged them to find a good church and get involved. After searching, I found them back at the same church where their “dad” was also their pastor. When I asked them about this, they mentioned that this is where they had genuine friends and relationship. I later realized the relationships they were talking about were with people from 30 – 60 years old. As they explained to me, this is a place where they have helped actually build the building. They worked side by side with the men and woman in our church. These were their trusted friends. These are the people that showed them how to do “life”
I have watched as many of these people have invested in my boys and their families. We have a number of families who invite them over to have supper and spend time with them and their wife. While they were teens, I was concerned because they did not get a chance to be involved in a large “peer” ministry like I got to experience. I have come to realize that I was the one who missed out.
While many of us complain that we cannot have the programs of the large church, we must not miss the opportunity to develop something the larger churches are not offering. We have the opportunity to link generations together every Sunday.
Here are some things we are trying. We recently combined our youth with our adults during Sunday School. I now watch kids talking with adults and adults asking the kids about their week. I have a family who has a teenager and they invite couples of all ages to their home once every 2 or 3 weeks for supper. The teen gets a say in who they invite. I have older couples who invites teens over after church for lunch. We encourage our adults to sit with the teens and kids at potluck fellowship once a month. We encourage everyone to focus on one kid that they build a relationship with them by speaking to them each week. In our culture, these are the kinds of things that cannot happen in a large ministry, but because of the smaller church where everything is open and people are in close contact, we have the opportunity to do some of these things.
The scripture speaks of the “older” folks teaching the “younger” folks. I think it is a very accurate picture of “community” that so many people seem to be seeking. It is something that the smaller church does almost organically because of its size. And I have found it to be one the great Hidden Gems in rural ministry.
THOT: What are you doing to encourage the inter generational aspect of your ministry?