Allen and Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation

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Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship. IVP Academic, 2012.

Referenced in: Generational Issues in Churches

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

I have always respected Holly Allen’s ministry. Here, she teams with Christine Lawton Ross to produce a  comprehensive defense of and guide to intergenerational ministry. The book opens with a quote from James Frazier:

The best way to be formed in Christ is to sit among the elders, listen to their stories, break bread with them, and drink from the same cup, observing how these ealier generations of saints ran the race, fought the fight, and survived in grace. (Across the Generations: Incorporating All Ages in Ministry)

This is truly intergenerational, which was the norm for much of Christian history, but now is increasingly rare except in the smallest of congregations. It can occur, however, in larger congregations, as in the case of one that began in 1980 as a mission plant in a retirement community, and has grown to more than 1,000 worshippers of all ages who work closely together in every aspect of ministry.

This congregation exemplifies intergenerationality, which is different from the popular multigenerational emphasis, which may not include intentional cross-age experiences, but uses generation theory to understand how to serve each generation within one congregation through ministry with each age group. This is helpful, but with a negative effect that the generations may “act like ships in the night that pass by one another but rarely have meaningful contact and interaction.” (19, from Menconi, Intergenerational Church) The same problem is reflected in many churches that describe themselves as transgenerational.

Intentional intergenerational ministry is different, as revealed in these definitions:

Intergenerational ministry occurs when a congregaton intentionally brings the generations together in mutual serving, sharing or learning within the core activities of the church in order to live out being the body of Christ to each other and the greater community. (17)

Intergenerational religious experience is when “two or more different age groups of peple in a religious community together learning/growing/living in faith through in-common experiences, parallel learning, contributivve-occasions, and interactive sharing.” (20, from White and Harkness)

Intentional intergenerational strategies are those in which an integral part of the process of faith communities encourages interpersonal interactions across generational boundaries, and in which a sense of mutuality and equality is encouraged between participants. (20, from Harkness)

To advocate and equip for this ministry, the authors divide the book into four parts:

Part One: Generational Realities - This states the main premise. It describes the current tendency to separate generations and argues for intergenerationality in terms of “intergenerational faith formation.”

Part Two: Biblical, Theological and Theoretical Foundations - This is the heart of the book. It shows how scripture, developmental theory, social learning theory, and ecological systems theory converge to uphold intergenerationality as a means for Christian formation in community.

Part Three: Social Science Foundations - Summarizes research from sociology of religion (e.g. Christian Smith), gerontology, and generational theory supporting intergenerational approaches to learning and growing.

Part Four: Ingenerational Christian Formation Practices - Gives practical insight on how to initiate and sustain an intergenerational congregational culture. Describes “dozens of ways to bring the generations together.”

The practical appendices include “Forty Intergenerational Ideas,” “Intergenerational Ministry Resources,”and “Biblical Passages that Reflect an Intergenerational Outlook.”

**For a summary, click here for the Kindle Version, go to right column, and download the free sample. If you don’t have a free Kindle Reader on your computer, there’s a link for that too.

Publisher’s Description

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

Most churches and faith communities segment their ministries by age and generation. The kids go to children’s church, the teens go to youth group. Worship services are geared toward different generational preferences, and small groups gather people at the same life stage, whether singles, young marrieds, parents or empty nesters. In some congregations, people may never interact with those of other ages.

But it was not always so. Throughout biblical tradition and the majority of history, communities of faith included people of all ages together in corporate worship, education and ministry. The church was not just multigenerational; it was intergenerational, with the whole church together as one family and people of all ages learning from one another in common life.

In this comprehensive text, Holly Allen and Christine Ross offer a complete framework for intentional intergenerational Christian formation. They provide the theoretical foundations for intergenerationality, showing how learning and spiritual formation are better accomplished through intergenerational contexts. It is not just elders teaching youth; learning also takes place when adults discover fresh insights from children. Then the authors give concrete guidance for intergenerational praxis on how worship, learning, community and service can all be achieved intergenerationally. Case studies of intergenerational congregations provide models for how a culture of intergenerationality can be created in local churches.

This volume serves as an essential guide for all preparing for and involved in congregational ministry and formation. Discover the riches of intergenerational ministry, and let all generations commend the works of God to one another.

About the Author

Holly Catterton Allen (Ph.D., Talbot School of Theology) is professor of Christian ministries and director of the child and family studies program at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. She currently holds the J. Vernon McGee endowed Chair at JBU. She teaches undergraduate courses such as critical concerns with children, nurturing spiritual development in children, and ministry with families across the lifespan. She received the faculty of the year award at JBU in Spring 2009.

Dr. Allen’s areas of scholarly interest are children’s spirituality and intergenerational issues. Her most recent book (with Christine Ross) is Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship (InterVarsity Press, 2012). Her first book, Nurturing Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives and Best Practices (Cascade), an edited volume, was released in 2008. She is member of the Society for Children’s Spirituality that convenes the triennial Children’s Spirituality Conference: Christian Perspectives at Concordia University near Chicago. She is also a recent board member of the North American Professors of Christian Education (NAPCE). She has published articles in Christian Education Journal, Lutheran Education, and Lifelong Faith, along with chapters in several books.

Dr. Allen is married to Dr. Leonard Allen and they have three adult children as well as four grandchildren.

Christine Lawton Ross (Ph.D., St. Louis University) is professor of Christian education and director of the Christian education program at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She has worked in congregational ministry and has taught in intergenerational, multicultural and overseas contexts. She is also the author of several Bible studies and Sunday school curriculum resources.

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