The term “intergenerational” conjures up all kinds of meanings—and all kinds of misunderstandings. First of all, intergenerational does not mean “dumbing down material so that children can understand it but the adults are bored.” But it also does not mean “teaching a normal adult class with the hope that the children present may gain a tidbit.”
Rather, intergenerational teaching consciously takes into account that there are learners of different ages and experiences present in the classroom and seeks to teach the hearts of all
. This is beneficial to adults and children alike, because the situation provides opportunities for both generations to understand the material differently and benefit from a different perspective. The young learn from the old, and the old learn from the young.
Some benefits of intergenerational teaching include:
- As adults, we often think we understand something, when in fact our “understanding” may merely be familiarity with the terms and concepts of something. However, when we have to explain something to a child, we are often challenged to comprehend these concepts at a deeper level.
- Adults may tend to pass over the practical application of a truth unless challenged to think about what it means for us in our everyday lives. We are much more comfortable with theory than with the reality of application. But to inquisitive, literal, young children, the truth and its application can be very blunt, obvious, and unavoidable. This can provide a wonderful way in which adults can be challenged by children.
- It assists in encouraging significant spiritual communication between adults and children. Having a forum where intergenerational communication is modeled, encouraged, and mentored can be beneficial to adults who may feel inadequate when communicating with children and can build good habits of communication in the whole family.
- We learn different things from children than from adults—so it is good to be with children. For example, children often respond unguardedly and more honestly to what they are taught. They rightly get excited or upset or indignant. Observing a child’s reactions can help adults to "let down our guard" and encourage appropriate heart responses.
- Having to adapt to a younger learner’s abilities teaches adults to grow in patience and the practice of encouragement.
- By focusing on "simple" truths with children, adults can be reminded of what is truly important so that we not become overly sophisticated in our faith.
- Sometimes learning at a slower pace—a child’s pace—makes the truths taught sink in deeper.
- Children will often ask questions that adults don’t think to ask. Sometimes these questions are hard for adults to answer and make adults uncomfortable. But the struggle to answer these questions is of great value to adults who have “inherited” knowledge and who must be challenged to understand what they “know.”
- It is good for children to see that what they are learning is also important to adults, and it makes them realize the content is important.
- It is good for children to have adult models in front of them
- It is good for children to see adults struggle (e.g., with memory work). This helps children realize that adults have difficulties, too, not just children.
- It helps young and old alike better understand and experience what it means to be the body of Christ, the Church, with all of its beautiful diversity.
Take a look at our intergenerational studies.