Last week the ELCA Youth Ministry Network published an article written by Kentucky Today. In this article, Kentucky Today cited a 2020 survey from Springtide Research Institute. It caught my eye because it was discussing the power of mentoring amongst Gen Z. Those in this generation are roughly between the ages of 12-27. This generation includes many of our confirmation-aged and high school students.
The research stated that, “Only 50 percent of young people who report having no mentors say their life has meaning. That number rises to 70 percent when there is at least one mentor and 86 percent with two to four. When there are five or more mentors involved, he added, 91 percent of young people say they feel their life has meaning and purpose." This is not a new idea, but it seems like an idea that the church needs to continue to pay attention to. So often, the church tries to create exciting, age-segregated ministries that will catch the attention of young people and help them to want to stay connected. However, we know that time and time again, kids are confirmed and leave the church. Or, they go away to college and don't find new places to be connected.
While age-segregated ministries can be helpful, it's also important for the church to help young people connect with people of all ages. Cross+generational ministry is a great opportunity for doing this.
Cross+generational ministry intentionally brings all ages together. It helps people in a congregation get to know everyone. It enables youth and adults to see that they share a lot of the same worries, concerns, and joys. When all ages come together, they gain knowledge from each other. They can understand each others' worlds in new ways. And most importantly, all ages can see that someone beyond their immediate family or friends cares about them.
It does take time to grow the idea of cross+generational ministry. So often different groups think the others don't want to talk with them or hear their stories. The church can create spaces to try out conversations. During worship, you can encourage people to greet someone 20 years older or younger than themselves. You can have Lenten worship around tables and offer a question for discussion where people talk with someone they don't know. You might invite an adult to share a faith story at youth group. Or, ask youth to tie knots with quilters. Offer an all-ages service project and watch how conversations begin.
We cannot sit around and mourn the idea that we don't have kids in congregations. We must make an effort to care for kids in all places. We can get to know the neighbor kid or volunteer with programs like Teammates or Big Brothers Big Sisters. There are kids all around that need caring adults in their lives. The church can help to facilitate these relationships and encourage people to go and have the conversation.