“To niche or not to niche?’ That is the question asked by many church planters and by congregations seeking to expand their mission outreach. The early days of the church growth movement tended to lean towards homogeneous ministries and niche outreach, but people like Mark Deymaz (Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, Jossey-Bass, 2007) claim that in the 21st century homogenous churches will increasingly struggle with credibility in proclaiming a message of God’s love for all people from an environment in which a love for all people cannot otherwise be observed. Deymaz points to the ability of the early church to embrace generational and cultural diversity as one of its strengths and, indeed, a Biblical mandate.
Amy Hanson offers a downloadable resource on Leadership Network ( www.leadnet.org ) “Breaking Down the Age Barriers: How Churches are becoming Intentionally Intergenerational” that can help congregations address one aspect of diversity. Many congregations today serve five generations of people. She urges congregations to give attention to…
• Creating natural ways for the generations to come together.
• Honoring older adults by asking them to tell their stories.
• Educating the congregation on the value of intergenerational ministry.
• Finding ways to make the worship service multi-generational.
• Encouraging affinity groups, rather than age groups, as a way for people to connect. This may be one of the key actions a congregation can take. Groups that are designed around a mutual interest rather than age can become a place for people of various generations to connect.
• Hosting strategic intergenerational events.
• Matching young people with older adults in mentoring relationships. This works both ways, Teenagers may help seniors with computer skills. Seniors may help young couples with plumbing and home repair issues.
Pat Springle in “Communicating with the Postmodern Generation” ( Download at www.leadnet.org ) says “The key to connecting at cross-generational ministry is humility.” Anger and arrogance turn off both the old and the young. Brad Bell (www.thewellcommunity.org ) says. “The older generation won’t listen to arrogant, young goateed pastors who are angry at the traditional church. They can’t respect us because we are attacking an institution that has meant a lot to them. When we say or imply that the traditional church is broken and irrelevant, we lose those men and women who have come to us to be built up in their faith. In our arrogance we cut off any connection with them and drive them away. But it’s not just a problem with the older people. If we’re arrogant, the younger generation writes us off as fake. So to the young, arrogance appears fake, and to the old, arrogance makes us punks.” THE KEY TO CONNECTING IN A CROSS-GENERATIONAL MINISTRY IS HUMILITY. Indeed, perhaps the key to a cross-generational ministry is the cross itself and a theology of the cross that stands at the center of our mission approach.