I don’t know how your summer went. But with four young children at home, mine seemed filled with endless amounts of verbal repetition. Whether it was “put your shoes away,” “clean up your toys,” “brush your teeth,” or “stop hitting your brother,” almost every phrase I uttered to my kids needed to be repeated multiple times, to multiple children—all day, every day.
But what I forgot in the midst of the mind-numbing repetition was that for children, repetition can be one of the main ways they learn. Most of the time I feel frustrated when I’m explaining something to my child—for the fifth time. Yet for them, the light of understanding often is just beginning to dawn.
One night at dinner the idea that I needed to keep talking about Jesus—on repeat—hit home for my husband and me. It was one of the rare dinners this summer where all my kids were seated and eating. My 10-year-old son began to ask questions about God, loving people, and getting to heaven. This was was shortly after the hate-filled incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the world wasn’t making a lot of sense to him. What ensued was a conversation filled with love as we explained how God loves us, but that the world is sinful and that is why Jesus needed to come.
We talked AGAIN about the need for each person to make a decision to follow Jesus and accept His forgiveness. It is then, with the Holy Spirit’s help, that we are truly able to love all people. We had discussed this before. But for my seven-year-old daughter listening in, her face lit up like it was new information; she was visibly processing, asking questions.
After dinner and the normal chaos that quickly resumed, my husband and I stood together and thanked God for the prompting to talk to our kids often about Him. We were reminded of the verses in Deuteronomy 6:6−7(NLT):
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (emphasis mine).
God knew that we adults would need to consistently pass our faith on to the next generation. It isn’t enough to believe it ourselves and hope that our kids pick it up. We need to actively tell it to them—again and again.
In my children’s ministry and as a parent, I find that it is easy to fall into the thinking that I’ve already covered a topic and explained it thoroughly. But when it comes to making sure our kids know Jesus loves them, forgives them, and wants to be their friend forever, I need to make sure that I am on constant repeat. Because we never know when that truth will finally make sense and take hold in their hearts as it did for my seven-year-old daughter that night at the dinner table.
Will you join me in telling the kids in our lives how much Jesus loves them at every opportunity?
The Intergenerational Volkswagen
How could the church do their job better? For me, the answer is together.
What’s our job? It’s clearly stated in Mathew 28 that our job is to execute the Great Commission.
In the book An Unstoppable Force, author Erwin McManus compares the church to a habitat where all the species need each other to grow and multiply. The church is like a habitat where generations (species) live together under the same roof—the church. Adults, young people, and kids in one place, eager to learn, grow, and make the Great Commission a reality by making disciples.
But what if the church is where generations collide rather than dance together for a purpose? Aren’t we supposed to be a community, a team? How can we win a game if we don’t play together? “Collide” is my description of a multigenerational church. It’s a place where we celebrate all the generations, but they work separately. Each of them has their own ministry life far from the other. A multigenerational church looks like a NASCAR race where all the cars compete to win on their own. The problem of the multigenerational church is that when you segregate the generations, you take away their opportunity to enjoy and learn from each other. If every generation claims a selfish spot at the church, then the Great Commission is at risk because Christ and the Gospel have ceased to be the center of our worship. The church doesn’t belong to a particular generation—the church belongs to God.
1 Corinthians 12:12 said: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ”.
God’s mission for all believers, regardless of age, is simple and clear—make disciples of all nations. But it’s a big task, and it’s impossible to do by yourself. Maybe it’s big because He doesn’t want you to do it alone. You need a team. God’s plan for His big mission is the church—the whole church, every generation, working together.
That’s what I think when I use the word “intergenerational”. It’s not a program, but a way of doing ministry together with the same goal in mind of making disciples of every nation. It’s a mindset where church leaders realize that every believer, no matter their age, is part of God’s plan. When we share our lives, stories, and experiences, we become more authentic and less systematic. We do fewer programs to become more relational. Contrary to a NASCAR race, intergenerational looks more like a Volkswagen camper full of people of different ages racing together to win. While they travel, they learn from each other as they work and serve together. They interact and develop meaningful relationships that help them show the world the invisible one.
I remember when my church started this new way of seeing the ministry. Our pastor asked us to cancel the majority of activities (the calendar was ridiculously busy). The men’s and women’s ministries decided to cancel their own activities to serve as one great team in the Fall Fest where we reached kids from the community. The result was a great celebration. Everyone had fun. The adults from the church met the kids and heard their stories, and you know that when you hear somebody’s story you’ll never see them the same way again.
How can we move to be more intergenerational?
- Be intentional. Learn the names of the kids and young people. Hear their stories.
- Be a mentor. Invest your life in kids and young people. Share your life experiences and your story.
- Be a team. Serve together. In our neighborhoods or on missions trips, let’s serve as a family. Let’s live the life God has for us, and let’s do it together.
Though the church needs to provide different experiences for every generation, in the end we know that it’s not about your generation or mine—it’s all about Christ and Christ alone.
The Memory Maker
We have a memory-making machine in our house.
It’s amazing how it works. There are few moving parts and it doesn’t require any external energy source. Anyone can use it, anytime. In fact, the more it is used, the more effective and life changing it becomes.
I don’t want to boast, but it is so effective that there have been numerous scientific and sociological studies done as to how and why it works so well. It has been shown that use of this memory-making machine leads to noticeably lower rates of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and depression. There is also a noticeable drop in adolescent use of tobacco and alcohol. There is a marked improvement in grade point averages and higher self-esteem in students as well as a lower level of obesity and eating disorders when this memory-making machine is used at least five times each week.
This memory-making machine is also called the kitchen table.
What is amazing is how few families actually take advantage of this truly life-changing piece of furniture. All the benefits mentioned are accurate. The simple act of families sitting down together at the table and eating a meal together at least five times a week changes lives. Yet studies show that only 59% of American families practice this habit.
Can you imagine the impact it would have if all Christian families took advantage of this wonderful tool? If eating five meals a week together makes this much of a difference, the spiritual impact it can have in a Christian home are mind-boggling. What better place to teach and model godly principles, to share the ups and downs of life with those you love, and to learn what it means to be part of a family.
It is interesting that whenever our kids and grandkids come over for a meal, we sit around the table talking long after the meal is over, laughing and kidding each other as we share memories. It is a time to reconnect and remember not only the happy times, but also those times when life’s lessons were painful. There’s something powerful in the talk between people who have their knees under the same table and are passing a bowl of green beans or taking a bite of food. Generational boundaries disappear, as everyone is free to join in. Kids learn conversation skills and manners without even knowing it.
When Moses penned the words, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7), I wonder if he wasn’t thinking of the dinner table?
Why not give it a try. Put the food on the table, and turn off the TV, video games, and computer. Put the cell phones away, and sit down as a family to eat. You will be amazed at the power of your memory-making machine.
Summer is For Families
Summer is just around the corner. The kids are crazy because the final bell sounds to mark the beginning of summer. For parents summer can mean many things. More clutter in the house, later bed times, finding activities, and maybe refrigerators in food crisis. But summer can be a great time of year to mark the spiritual life of your family. As a family we invite you to not let your guard down this summer. Instead, be intentional about the spiritual education in your home.
That’s why we suggest that you:
- Continue to pray for your family and have quiet time at home for at least one night a week (family night). Remember that although your family is on vacation, God never goes on vacation.
- Choose a service project where your family can serve during the summer. Teaching kids that were created to serve.
- Make guidelines for the use of electronics. Help your kids to not be connected to the TV, video games or Internet all day. Monitor video games, TV programs and Internet content.
- Prepare your “summer bucket list”. As a family create a list of things you would like to do this summer.
- Remember that while camps, VBS, and day programs are fun it is always more fun to spend time together as a family.
Hopefully 2014 will be a great summer and the memories that are made this summer in your family will be remembered for many years.
For the Spanish version click here.