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Intergenerational Christian Formation

Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship

by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton

Intergenerational Christian Formation
  • Formats: epub, pdf, and mobi
  • Published: July 31, 2012
  •  In stock
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-6346-4
  • Item Code: 6346

"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 Lawton 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.

"This book is for pastors, lay leaders and professional church educators and students who want to model congregational life on the kingdom of God instead of marketing strategies designed to appeal to generational narcissism based on individual preference. This is one book that will both encourage and equip congregations to be less 'conformed to the world,' less prone to say, 'I have no need for you.' This is a book that argues persuasively from solid research, as well as the biblical mandate, for congregations to really 'love one another.' This book is honest about the costly demands of intentional intergenerational development as well as its rich rewards."

Robbie F. Castleman, author, Parenting in the Pew

"Drawing on classical developmental theories and biblical interpretation, Allen and Ross offer evangelicals a useful guide to the benefits and practices of intergenerational ministry. Their examples of multiage small groups and the true stories of multigenerational interactions included throughout the text are particularly helpful."

Karen Marie Yust, Union Presbyterian Seminary

"In Intergenerational Christian Formation Holly Allen and Christine Ross give us thorough, powerful and practical approaches to growing Christ-followers of all generations. Pastors, church leaders and all believers can greatly benefit from their wise insights into how Christians grow and mature when the different generations learn that we are better together. I highly recommend this book."

Peter Menconi, author of The Intergenerational Church: Understanding Congregations from WWII to

"Thought-provoking--and refreshing! Allen and Ross present a perfect blend of the biblical principles, academic inquiries and practical solutions surrounding one of the most significant, yet uncharted, areas in today's church communities. A must-read for all who desire to pass along a lasting Christian faith from generation to generation."

Jessica Stollings Strang, generational speaker and founder of re:Generations

"Families are complex; family ministry even more so. Allen and Ross explain how the best of intentions brought about the separation of generations in the church with serious unintended consequences. Now the question is: How do we bring the generations back together again into the one body that is the church? In Intergenerational Christian Formation this question is scrutinized from every possible angle, with input from every possible source. Allen and Ross conclude by offering more than enough activities to get the generations mixing again. Pastors, directors of Christian education and lay ministers will be pulling this book off their shelves for advice and inspiration over and over again."

Dr. John W. Oberdeck, professor of theology and director for lay ministry, Concordia University Wisconsin

"Christine Ross and Holly Allen genuinely believe in the intergenerational nature of the church, the people of God at every age together. They lay out an excellent vision for rebuilding that intergenerational nature in contemporary congregational life. Segmentation of a church's membership and age segregation have almost no place in their vision. They lay out the scriptural basis for the multigenerational church and review an amazing amount of literature in a concise and cogent way, and their writing is engaging and reader-friendly. Being a big fan of generational history, I really liked their presentation of it and how it works in the church. Read this book and intergenerational ministry seems so obvious. There is an outstanding review of literature reviewing learning and social theory, solid theory and theology, relevant observations and practical application--laying out how intergenerational ministry could happen in a congregational setting. They stress storytelling and tell some great stories in the process. One wonders how so much of the church sold out to an age-segregated approach when intergenerational church is so right. "What does this intergenerational church look like? I like the way they cite the Pauline 'one another' passages. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that kind of community?"

Terry Dittmer, director of youth ministry, the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

"The authors have done a superb job making the case for the importance of intergenerational ministry in our churches. And the practical suggestions make it doable for every church. This book belongs on every pastor's bookshelf."

Ivy Beckwith, Ph.D., author of Postmodern Children's Ministry

"Holly Allen and Christine Ross make a strong case for the importance of intergenerational ministry. They then follow this up with stories, examples and specific ideas for how to make intergenerational ministry happen in churches large or small. This book is a valuable resource for anyone in ministry."

Robert J. Keeley, professor of education, Calvin College, author of Helping Our Children Grow in Faith

"Allen and Ross have opened up a critical issue for thoughtful ministry leaders to consider. We have recognized for some time the strengths and limitations of age-segregated ministry but not had strong advocates to help us consider ways to strengthen our ministry efforts through intergenerational approaches. This book is a welcome guide to show us the needs, consider the biblical foundations for intergenerational ministry and learn from recent research about how people grow in their interactions with others from different generations. The final section on intergenerational Christian formation practices is worth the price of the whole book. If you care about the Christian formation of children, youth and adults in your church, you have to read this book and begin to put into practice what you have learned!"

Dr. Kevin E. Lawson, director, Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in educational studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and editor of the Christian Education Journal

"'The concept of "intergenerational issues" is often spoken of as a deviation from "normal," a concept and words of the wrong worldview. From [God's] point of view we must see "generational streaming" as the deviation from "normal"!' Thus one Christian leader astutely commented to me during my research on intergenerational processes in Christian faith communities. That was some years ago, but the validity of the insight--like the Scriptures from which the leader drew that perspective--is enduring. So it is most encouraging to read Holly Allen and Christine Ross's new take on this focus in their Intergenerational Christian Formation. Whether readers are those who sense that God's heartbeat for his special community is about inclusiveness in how Christians express their lives together--and indeed, the corporate life of the faith communities themselves--or skeptics willing to come to the topic with an open mind, this book is likely to be a life-giver, as it draws together broad insights to reinforce that the intergenerational perspective can be held with integrity, and also as it provides a wide range of examples and practical ideas to enable effective practice."

Allan Harkness, dean of AGST Alliance, a postgraduate theological education venture in Southeast Asia, and a passionate proponent of intergenerationalism in Christian faith communities

"As many North American churches find themselves in turmoil due to age-divided congregations, I believe Intergenerational Christian Formation is a must read."

Russel Doerksen, The Messenger, July 2013

"Intergenerational Christian Formation provides church leaders with a solid biblical rationale and a reasoned roadmap for cultivating such a culture of intergenerational life, blessings and community in Christ."

Tim Pyles, The Christian Chronicle, March 2013

"While there is no easy solution to complex challenges faced particularly by ethnic churches, I appreciate the authors' encouragement to find shared Christian values and a shared mission whereby different generations can engage in shared ministry in spaces beyond the sanctuary. This book provides guidance for anyone interested in and committed to intentional intergenerational Christian formation."

Narola Ao McFayden, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, 68(4)

"Intergenerational Christian Formation would be a valuable text to use in upper division undergraduate and seminary-level ministry courses. The book's overall tone, practical pointers and insights drawn from congregational field research also make it a great resource for ministry practitioners desiring to explore the theory and practice of intergenerational ministry. This is an important book that deserves to be read widely, one that is sure to have an enduring impact for many years to come."

Cory Seibel, McMaster Journal for Theology and Ministry, 2013-2014


Venturing into Intergenerationality: Our Stories
Part One: Generational Realities
1. What Is the Problem?
2. How Did We Get Here? Why churches tended to separate the generations
3. Why Bring the Generations Back Together? The benefits of intergenerationality
4. What Shall We Name This Approach?
Part Two: Biblical, Theological, and Theoretical Support
5. Feasts, Jehoshaphat and House Churches: Biblical Foundations
6. Growing Each Other Up: Theoretical Foundations
7. Midwives, Tailors and Communities of Practice: Learning Theory
8. The Trinity, Koinonia and the Body: Theological Foundations
Part Three: Support from the Social Sciences
9. Becoming Christian in Community: "Religious Socialization" 
10. The Very Old and the Very Young: Contributions from Gerontology
11. Millennials, Xers, Boomers and Silents: Generational Theory
12. By the Numbers: Empirical Research
Part Four: Intergenerational Christian Formation Practices
13. Creating a Culture of Intergenerationality
14. Intergenerational Worship
15. Intergenerational Learning Experiences
16. Intergenerationality and Story Sharing
17. Intergenerational Service and Missions
18. Intergenerational Small Groups
19. Cross-Generational Relationships in Multicultural Churches
20. Intergenerationality and Megachurches
Appendix A: Forty Intergenerational Ideas
Appendix B: Intergenerational Resources
Appendix C: Biblical Passages that Reflect an Intergenerational Outlook

Author photo of Holly Catterton Allen

Holly Catterton Allen (PhD, Talbot School of Theology) served as professor of Christian ministries and family science at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. She had previously taught at John Brown University, Biola University, and Abilene Christian University.

Allen's areas of scholarly interest are children's spirituality and intergenerational issues, and she leads two national, ecumenical conferences: InterGenerate and the Children's Spirituality Summit. She is the editor of Nurturing Children's Spirituality and InterGenerate and the coauthor of Intergenerational Christian Formation.

Christine Lawton

Christine Lawton (PhD, St. Louis University) is a lifelong Christian educator who has served as youth and family minister in various churches, teacher in Christian schools, and professor/director of the Christian education program at Concordia University Irvine. She is the author of several Bible studies and Sunday school curriculum resources. She lives in Washington State. She particularly enjoys intergenerational, international, multi-cultural, Christian education, or beach-oriented activities.