by Mark Hofman
“The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is on the cutting edge!”
I know that’s a bit hard to believe, isn’t it? You know the LCMS and its storied history, and you know we’re typically not early adopters.
And yet, during a presentation a few weeks back, one of the program directors in the Office of National Mission reported that other denominations consider the LCMS to be on the forefront of intergenerational ministry. As I heard it, “intergenerational ministry” is a behavioral characteristic of a congregation or denomination where children and young people are in regular contact with people more advanced in years — and vice versa — and everyone grows in discipleship together. It can be intentional or a natural state that develops on its own. Apparently, we are noticed by others for above-average marks in this area.
So, What Does This Have to Do with Stewardship?
Let’s focus on one of God’s greatest blessings: young people. How are we at caring for our youngest? Intergenerational ministry is surely part of our denominational DNA because we invest time, talent, toil and treasure in the next generation of Christian disciples.
Take, for example, the Synod’s official archive: Concordia Historical Institute. Why invest in a dedicated archive that stewards our history? It’s for our young people, so they can learn from our mistakes and joys as they learn to lead and carry the Gospel forward into the world! That’s one reason among a multitude of others.
We also invest in Lutheran schools, from day care to universities and seminaries, so that our young people have a bright future. We invest in ministry to young people, from local youth groups to the Office of National Mission’s Youth Ministry.
Above all, we invest in our young people through catechesis, intentional instruction in the chief parts of the Christian faith using a treasure handed down from one generation to the next over nearly 500 years: Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms. The LCMS also equips pastors, directors of Christian outreach, schoolteachers and others to support the parent’s task of raising up a child in the way God wants that child to go.
Apparently what we do, almost second nature, has caught the attention of other Christians who are beginning to seek us out. That’s something to give thanks to God for!
Evidence of Intergenerational Ministry
Recently, my congregation had a Sunday-morning brunch in the fellowship hall. Looking around, I noticed a pattern. From table to table, I saw children, their parents and their grandparents. At one table, it was nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles, and parents. They were together, in God’s house, after worshiping as complete families. Even at my table, my 6-year-old son, my wife and my in-laws sat across from another family.
As people finished eating, family units broke up to spend time with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Young children visited with our oldest members. Older members walked around and stopped to chat with a teen or small child.
Observing this, I began to better understand some of my son’s developing behaviors. Like most children, he pays attention to what the adults around him do. He sees them pray, and it emboldens him to pray, even when he thinks I’m not listening. He sees others put their offerings into the offering plate, and he is learning to return some of what is God’s back to God. He sees teenagers volunteering and asks if he can volunteer next time. He observes people listening to the Scripture readings and sermons, and he learns to remain respectfully quiet. In our congregation, he has heard from our missionaries and seminarians, and he asks questions about church work. Some may call it mimicking or modeling behaviors. I call it the Holy Spirit at work in Christ’s Bride, the Church.
I pray every child in the LCMS has this kind of experience. It’s about the stewardship of God’s gifts in the form of young people. I pray your congregation is blessed with young people and that your stewardship of them is something in which you rejoice — and participate!
Mark Hofman, CFRE, MBA, is the executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement.