4 May 2024

Intergenerational ministry: Part of something bigger

A photo of hands from people of different ages piled on to of one another

Salvationist catches up with the territory’s new team of divisional intergenerational officers and workers.

A photo shows Jo Thompson.

Major Jo Thompson

Central, Southern and Channel Islands Division

How does intergenerational ministry benefit The Salvation Army?

Mutual investment in the lives of all members – connecting, caring and conversing with one another – enables the Church to thrive. It creates a feeling of accountability, where no one person is more important than another. There is great value in journeying through faith and navigating the joys and challenges life brings.

For The Salvation Army, it creates and nurtures faith-based relationships across generations, bringing a sense of belonging for all and enabling mission to flourish. I see evidence and glimpses of this wherever I go, through activities such as Drawing Closer or band and choir rehearsals. I have witnessed teenagers in conversation with older people after Sunday worship, both mutually invested in each other’s lives, children and adults in café church asking and answering questions, prayer partner initiatives and Singing by Heart groups with two or three generations represented.

What do you hope to achieve in your role?

I want to encourage people to see beyond age-specific styles of ministry and embrace the benefits of whole-church approaches. Many congregations, although not all, are smaller than they were, and age-specific ministry – like Sunday school – is no longer viable. This provides an ideal opportunity to re-evaluate things and encourage relationship building and activities that are not age-restricted.

‘Intergenerational’ can sound confusing, and labels can be perceived as ‘just another programme’ or a new style of worship. But it has always been integral to the Church. I also hope to eradicate myths by helping people understand that it’s about any generations coming together, whether that be 50 and 80-year-olds or 4 and 24-year-olds.

What does family mean to you?

My mind immediately jumps to stereotypical images of a mum, dad and two young children. But family is about the people who are part of our lives. Family is the friends we get to do life with, the people we live with, the people in our church. Family means being part of something bigger and having a responsibility to care for others. Family is the support network we trust and the ties that hold us all together.

A photo shows Ann Stewart.

Major Ann Stewart

North Scotland Division

How does intergenerational ministry benefit The Salvation Army?

All-age worship is sometimes thought to be like an adult Sunday school, but that’s not really what whole-church intergenerational worship is about. It’s about worshipping together rather than separately. Sunday school only came about in the 1700s, and we lost that family worship where you learn together.

Even if there are things children don’t understand, there are some bits that they can and they have insights that we don’t. And if they have parents or guardians with them, they could chat together about it and ask questions about it so they can learn together. When Moses got to the Promised Land, there weren’t separate queues for mums, dads and children!

What do you hope to achieve in your role?

I’m hoping to see more families and multiple generations worshipping together. Whether that’s on Sundays or at Messy Church, more families and generations worshipping together, learning from each other and everybody having a voice.

Because North Scotland is predominantly a division of older people, I’m encouraging investing in Messy Church and intergenerational worship – rather than starting children’s clubs – because when parents aren’t involved, children are more likely to leave.

What does family mean to you?

Family is multi-generational and it’s not necessarily biological. In my role, I visit parent-and-toddler groups, Messy Churches, home leagues and Cameo groups to come alongside corps and group leaders, encouraging them to flourish and grow with enthusiasm for new intergenerational possibilities in what they’re doing. I miss having my own congregation as a corps officer, but because it’s a smaller division I can go back to corps regularly, so they’ve got to know me. I see them as my extended family.

A photo of Shelley Gallagher.

Shelley Gallagher

South East Division

How does intergenerational ministry benefit The Salvation Army?

When people of two or more generations come together and everyone is intentionally mutually invested in, we will all benefit from feeling valued, loved and that we have a place in the body of Christ. I could give a long list of emerging or thriving intergenerational ministry in the division. For example, parent-and-toddler groups where generations are building relationships with each other, or when children from a corps preschool are meeting with older members of a corps to read together and form relationships with them.

Elsewhere, Lego church is bringing families in to build Lego and relationships, or an open house is inviting people to chat and do crafts together, regardless of age or situation. There are also children and youth welcoming church members as they arrive for Sunday meetings and older people offering refreshments to people of all ages who attend the meeting. It’s everyone sharing in their faith journey and supporting each other.

What do you hope to achieve in your role?

At the moment, it’s about building relationships. I want to come alongside corps and journey together as they explore what intergenerational ministry could and does look like for them.

It’s also about sharing resources that have already been produced, such as Jump In!, Get Owt! and Drawing Closer.

What does family mean to you?

I’m very blessed to have been brought up in a family where we were loved unconditionally and valued for who we were. I was made to feel that I belong. Within the family of God, that isn’t any different – it’s about feeling loved and valued, knowing we are made in God’s image.

I feel like ‘Big Family of God’ is my theme song in this role. It talks about how we may like many different things, or look different: ‘But God loves everyone he’s made/ God loves each of us, in a special way…/ We’re part of the big family of God!’

Want to know more?

To learn more about intergenerational ministry, contact your divisional intergenerational worker or email the Family Ministries Department.

Email Family Ministries

Discover more

Support, training and resources to inspire families and individuals to flourish and develop in their faith journey.

Resources to celebrate the different families represented in our communities

Resources to support families and those that work with them.

A card based resource which will enable church groups to explore what family means.