In October I had the chance to speak at the Cross Generational 2018 Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. It was a great opportunity to share some of my experiences and to learn from people from across the U.S., Canada and even a pastor from Latvia and his family.
The background of the conference is that the old model of segregating everyone by age and leaving it completely to the church to teach faith is not working. As this graphic shows, Sunday School participation in the ELCA has declined by over 80% in the past 25 years. In 1990 there were over one million children in Sunday School nationwide in our denomination, and by 2015, it had dropped to 180,000. If this was a business, no one would say let’s keep doing what we’re doing!
While this may sound like a gloomy picture, I see it as providing new possibilities. What the church does have is people from all generations–church is one of the few places where people who are 3, 33, and 93 all have a chance to connect with one another!
One example I talked about in my presentation was an all ages event where we were learning about God’s creation. One of our activities was to make slime (if you are not familiar with this, think homemade playdough or silly putty). It turned out that the middle schoolers were the most experienced at this and they were the experts teaching both the younger kids and the retired people. As you can imagine, there was a lot of laughter in the process and it was a fun bonding experience for all of us.
I often hear people say that children and youth are the future of the church. I disagree. Children and youth are not the future; they are the church now.
This fall at Prince of Peace we’ve moved from Sunday School divided by grades to a Faith Formation model with multiple ages together and both parents and other caring adults participating with our kids and one of the pastors leading story time.
We dig deeper into the Narrative Lectionary story that we’re also hearing in worship. Our adult forum topics this year also relate to the text for the day. Because we’re all focusing on one story, conversation can begin at church on Sunday and continue at home with family or friends during the week.
We are also planning some upcoming events for people of all ages. The first one will be on Sunday, November 25 at 9:40 a.m. Watch for more details and plan to join us to see how much fun ministry with all ages can be.