How in the world would we pull this off?
This was the looming question for our small group. We were an active group of twelve adults. We decided to host a backyard kids’ club at one of our member’s homes for several evenings in June. Using Vacation Bible School materials, we followed the same plan but just did it for a neighborhood. It was easy for us (or so we thought), and we loved it.
It was a great way for our small group to serve together and to reach out to those who did not know Jesus.The previous summer we had intentional conversations with parents who would drop off their kids or stay and join us. And, of course, the kids got to know other kids in their neighborhood, and we were able to see several make decisions for Christ. We were then able to minister to those families throughout the year in a variety of ways.
The challenge came after hosting it our first summer. The next summer, we had over sixty kids sign up! (Not a good ratio of adults to kids in an open, outdoor space!) What would it look like for parents to walk up and see so many kids running wild all over the yard? How would we keep the attention of so many kids for five minutes, let alone two hours? And Lord help us if it started to rain! We only had a garage and a covered porch!
We ended up asking one of the mature adult women’s classes from church if they would be willing to join us. We said we could really use their help with checking children in as they arrived with their parents, monitoring the snack and craft stations, and helping in any other areas where they would be willing to serve. They agreed, and it has been a lasting connection and way to serve together ever since.
No matter how your church does small groups, connecting generations is important. The presence of multiple generations may bring challenges, but more often, the connection is an exciting opportunity to join diverse skill sets and experiences. It is a gift, as a leader, to bring people together to learn the value of unique perspectives and discover the impact as people develop respect and trust in one another.
So how do you connect the generations through small groups? Here are some ideas to get your group started.
- Serve together. It is obvious from the example that serving together is one of the most meaningful ways groups can join together. People can serve with many different types of ministries through churches and communities. Look for those opportunities at local homeless shelters, non-profit organizations, area schools, or nursing homes. Join with another small group to serve food at a homeless shelter or consider gathering supplies and gifts for Operation Christmas Child boxes or other ministries. Remember that Christ is the common bond that brings all of you together and sharing His love and care can be exemplified in a variety of ways.
- Play together. As funny as it may sound, join with another small group for a “play date.” Invite one or more small groups to picnic together at a local park or look for additional ways to shake up your digital meetings. Here are some great icebreaker ideas that can be used if you are still meeting online. The goal is gathering the people together for conversation and connecting with each other. As your church begins to meet in person again, you may want to host an afternoon or evening of board games. Usually young and old enjoy board games, and they can be played regardless of the weather. Board games allow for a lot of interaction and opportunity for people to learn from one another.
- Eat together. You can always invite another small group to join your group and enjoy a meal together. Fall is the perfect time for an outdoor, socially distanced picnic! The goal is dialogue and intentional conversations that are not forced or rushed. And face it, people love food, so it really doesn’t matter how you do it!
- Share together. Most people do not have the opportunity to learn from multiple generations. Yes, some people have spent time with grandparents or others that shared wisdom and guidance, but many have not had that experience. What better place to connect generations than through the church and small groups?
You can make this fun, and all will benefit from the experience.
Remember how Romans 12:3-8 talks about the many gifts in one body? Think about connecting small groups with specific teachings and/or projects. Use the specific skill sets or spiritual gifts of small group members and include “reverse mentoring.” Ask some of your younger adults to share their tech-savvy knowledge with the older adults; for example, everyone grabs their phones and shares their apps. Or invite various members of the small group to showcase their knowledge on a particular skill or subject. Think of it like TED-Talk presentations. Someone with photography skills can share ten minutes about using the camera on your phone with simple tips for great photos. Another might share basic budgeting skills for families. Think of the things that may sound simple, but due to busyness, people haven’t had time to learn.
Focus on the positive strengths of the various generations. Regardless of age, most people want to continue learning. In any small group, people want to know how to strengthen relationships, how to have a healthy work and family balance, how to develop Christ-like character and how to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Almost everyone wants to be coached by someone in an area he or she is knowledgeable or experienced in. People want and need other people. We really do crave connection and sometimes that connection is found in people and places when you least expect it—like joining together two or three diverse small groups.
At our core we are looking for one key ingredient with other people. Meaningful relationships. It is the foundation for why most people enjoy being together. They learn together. They laugh together. They serve, play, and eat together. They share together. They pray together. They grow in Christ together. (Read Acts 2:42.)
What are some additional ideas or experiences you’ve learned to connect generations through small groups? We’d love to hear your ideas!
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with LifeWay Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to LifeWay. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.