The pastor got up during worship wearing many different-colored scarves. She passed around a couple of brightly colored scarves, too. She told the biblical story of Joseph, his multicolored coat, and his brothers in simple terms. She asked the participants if they had ever had a hard time getting along with their brothers or sisters.
“You bet!” one said.
“Every family’s like that,” another responded.
“I had a red coat,” said yet another.
The pastor talked with the group a bit longer. She talked about how much God cared for Joseph, each of his brothers, and everyone in the group that day, then she prayed a simple prayer. She ended this time by inviting everyone to sing a song together that they knew well.
Can you guess about how old those in the group were with whom the pastor was connecting? These were not young children. In fact, they were on the other end of the age spectrum. These were folks who struggle with dementia.
The word in faith formation these days is “multigenerational” and “intergenerational.” I’ve been wondering if Children’s Church could be renamed “Active Church” and if children and elders with dementia could worship God together. Both groups have similar needs. They have briefer attention spans, so they need shorter activities. Both groups love using their five senses—touching, seeing, listening to, smelling, and tasting (as appropriate) beautiful, interesting things. Simpler words help them to understand. Importantly, most older adults enjoy spending time with little ones and little children need the love that these elders are willing to share. There are specific needs for safety in church for both children and vulnerable adults, so having trained, compassionate people leading and caring for the group would be vital.
Are you thinking of creative ways that your congregation can do more intergenerational and/or multigenerational faith formation? How can all God’s people be assured that God cares for them in ways that they can understand?
Messy Church: Fresh Ideas for Building Christ-centered Community, Lucy Moore and Jane Leadbetter, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2017.