The young and the old gathered together to hear John Roberto speak on the importance of intergenerational ministry in churches.
“I think the church by nature is intergenerational, it has to be, it should not be targeted toward any demographic,” Memorial Road Church of Christ Education Minister Josh Kingcade said. “I think the only way church works is with people from all life stages being able to support each other.”
Roberto was this year’s keynote speaker for the annual Intergenerational Faith Center (IFC) Dialogues at Oklahoma Christian University on Monday, Feb. 1.
“Church is one the few places where different generations get together on a weekly basis or a bi-weekly basis,” senior Bible major Jaron Brandt said. “If we know that there’s value and education for each generation – whether it be for the young people or middle aged or older – if they all have something to offer, why aren’t we using it?”
Charles Rix, interim dean of the College of Biblical Studies, introduced Roberto to the audience.
“Intergenerational faith is central to really everything we need to be doing going forward in the 21st century to introduce people to Christ,” Rix said.
Roberto was born in Connecticut, and said it was there in his early childhood he began to learn the importance of generations growing and learning together.
“I came to this topic in a very personal way because I grew up in an intergenerational household,” Roberto said. “My house had three floors and they were all Robertos. I am here because of the nurturing I received in that household.”
According to Roberto, people have moved away from being intergenerational, with fewer and fewer households with multiple generations and interactions between different generations. However, he said in recent years, he has found some people pushing back.
“There’s been this gentle kind of push back against that,” Roberto said.
Roberto cited several articles and instances of people utilizing an intergenerational mentality including a preschool in a nursing home, a program allowing teens to teach older adults about their technology and a project involving young people interviewing older generations in order to document their stories.
“This is in the realm of things churches can do so easily because we already have parents and grandparents,” Roberto said.
According to Roberto, these examples should show churches just how easy it is to become effectively intergenerational.
“Some churches feel like they have to invent something that’s out of this world,” Brandt said. “Something he emphasized is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just take something that you’re doing and you say ‘how can this become something better if we add more generations’ and that doesn’t take that much effort anyway.”
According to Roberto, churches have various opportunities to become more intentionally intergenerational.
“I think the whole idea of being intergenerational is something that every one will nod their head to,” Kingcade said. “Now, we’ve got to get them to practice it, everyone gets the idea. I think he reinforced that tonight.”
Roberto said he suggested churches host intergenerational social events like an art festival for the community or a mission trip or service project, open to all generations.
“Churches get why this is important, so you’re not trying to sell them on the why, you’ve just got to sell them on the how,” Kingcade said.
Roberto also said turning events already in practice into intergenerational events is a good way to bring more generations together. He then gave an example of a church that turned its regular vacation Bible school into an event for young children and grandparents.
The event was held in the Adams Recital Hall at 7 p.m. For more information on John Roberto or IFC, visit Oklahoma Christian University’s website.