Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.—Psalm 145:3-4
Intergenerational classes are a wonderful way to gather families to learn together. It is not the last resort when babysitters are not available, but an opportunity for both children and adults to be teachers and both to be learners.
I think God’s intent for the generations is that we should bless one another, support one another, encourage one another and enrich each other’s lives.
Intergenerational doesn’t mean dumbing down material so that children can understand it but the adults are bored. But it also doesn’t mean teaching a normal adult class with the hope that the children present may get a tidbit.
True intergenerational teaching conscientiously takes into account that there are learners of different ages and experiences present in the classroom and seeks to teach the hearts of all of them. It’s beneficial to the adults and to the children because the uniqueness of the situation provides some opportunities for both generations to understand the material differently and to benefit from a different perspective.
A positive experience in an intergenerational class can encourage a dad who has never lead a family devotional time to launch out at home in bringing the Word to his family.—Sally Michael
Intergenerational classes work ideally for parents with children in first grade and older who can read and participate in class activities. Junior and senior high students can be included, but teachers and parents will need to be careful to ensure the material and illustrations engaging for them or provide them with extra responsibility to help lead in class. It works best for preschool and kindergarten students to remain in a separate age-specific class so parents' focus can be on having deeper spiritual conversations with their older children rather than trying to keep the youngest ones engaged. These mixed generation learning environments can be introduced to a variety of settings such as Sunday morning or evening services, Wednesday night programs, summer Sunday school classes, family camps or small group settings.
In her seminar Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?, Sally shares these and other benefits to an intergenerational teach model:
- Relational: It can remove barriers between age groups crumble and provide an opportunity to be the church—a united body of believers.
- Cognitive: Children can think outside the box and provide different perspectives for the adults as well as ask questions that adults never think of or are reluctant to ask. This helps bring insight and understanding to the material for all ages.
- Conversational: Good intergeneration learning experiences can open communication between adults and children and prompt engaging spiritual conversations.
- Emotional: Little children can remind adults to learn with their hearts as well as with their heads.
- Simplicity: Adults can get caught up in fine tuning theological points and children can help remind them of the important, basic truths like Jesus died for sinners or love one another.
- Application and Response: Seeing the eager acceptance and concrete responses of children is a wonderful way in which adults can be challenged to respond in obedience and faith to the truth.
Listen to the full seminar by Sally to learn more about the benefits of intergenerational teaching, how to teach the intergeneration curriculum from Children Desiring God and practical tips on how to adapt your existing curriculum for an intergenerational setting.
Sally Michael is a co-founder of Children Desiring God, where she has a passion for developing God-centered resources for the spiritual development of children in the home and church. She is an author of curriculum, parenting resources and children's books published by Children Desiring God and P&R Publishing. Sally and her husband David have two daughters, Amy and Kristi, and three grandchildren.