A New Faith Forming Ecosystem Part 2: Intergenerational Relationships
This is the second in a series of posts on the faith forming ecosystem. You can find the first post here. This series is developed from John Roberto’s new book, “Reimagining Faith Formation in the 21st Century,” which is available from LifelongFaith.com.
At the heart of the new 21st century faith forming ecosystem is the rediscovery of the power of intergenerational relationships, and the events and experiences of the whole faith community. Throughout the Biblical tradition there is a pervasive sense that all generations—from the youngest to the oldest—were typically present when faith communities gathered for worship, learning the tradition, reading the Bible, celebrating rituals, praying, serving those in need, and supporting each other.
Joyce Mercer, author and professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, writes:
“The best curriculum for forming children, youth, and anyone else in Christian faith is guided participation in a community of practice where people are vibrantly, passionately risking themselves together in lives of faith in a world crying out for the love of Christ. . . . We become Christian, taking on the identity of one who is a disciple of Jesus, by acting the way Christians act, and by talking the way Christians talk. Over time through practice, even our hearts and minds are formed in this way of life.”
Congregations need to be intentionally intergenerational—making it a priority to foster intergenerational relationships, faith sharing, and storytelling; to incorporate all generations in worship; to develop service projects that involve all ages; and to engage all generations in learning together.
Intergenerational faith formation and whole community faith experiences are at the center of the new faith formation ecosystem. Becoming intentionally intergenerational would:
- Form and deepen Christian identity and commitment as people actively participate in faith communities that teach, model, and live the Christian tradition.
- Provide a curriculum for the whole community that is a shared experience in faith for everyone. Topics might include Sunday worship, the lectionary, church year seasons, learning, service, ritual and sacraments, prayer, and more.
- Strengthen relationships, connections, and community across generations; enhance their sense of belonging in the faith community; and provide valuable adult role models for children and adolescents.
- Support families by surrounding them with a community of faith and engaging the whole family in a variety of faith-forming experiences together (caring relationships, celebrating, learning, praying, serving); and providing parents with opportunities to learn from Christians who are practicing their faith and raising faithful children.
- Strengthen the ability (confidence and competence) of parents and grandparents to promote religious socialization at home; be role models of faithful practice; and engage in faith practices at home and develop warm, affirming, and unconditionally supporting relationships between parents (and grandparents) and their children, teens, and young adults.
Dive deeply into each area the ecosystem as part of Vibrant Faith University.