By Carl Stagner
What might today’s millennials learn from retirees? What wisdom could baby boomers offer young children? What might the Greatest Generation learn from quality time spent with new parents or tech-savvy teens? While Grace Place Church celebrated their one hundredth anniversary this year, they also took strides to reach beyond their hometown of Hermitage, Tennessee. Longing to reflect a biblical model of ministry across the spectrum of ages, they’ve started a church that is intentionally intergenerational.
Think about it: No Sunday school classes separated by age groups. No nursery or children’s church. Everybody together, doing the work of the church together. While some might question the method’s practicality, Pastor Kathy Tack sees the unique opportunities only present when the oldest and the youngest worship and grow together. Sunday school hour at Generations of Grace is just one example. “All males meet together, and all females meet together, from oldest to youngest,” Kathy explains. “These groups are great opportunities to learn from one another in keeping with biblical instruction for older ones to teach the younger ones.”
The church offers a parenting group on Wednesday nights to further encourage parents in the upbringing of their children. Resources are distributed for parents to take home and use for instruction throughout the week. Family fun activities and discussion questions relate back to the message preached on Sunday morning. Both biblical and bold, their strategy stems from Kathy’s preparation for the ministry. Her ministry professor, Bryce Fox, who introduced her to this fresh—but certainly not new—method, now serves alongside Kathy as pastor to families. From Sunday school to the worship team—where the age range is nine to seventy-five—intergenerational is their approach.
“Our focus is on equipping parents to be the spiritual leaders of their homes rather than relying on the church to be the spiritual teachers of their children,” Kathy explains. “We believe that this will help produce Christian adults that feel strongly connected to the church, regardless of their age, marital status, or other demographic, and who will already know how to raise their children in the faith.”
After extensive planning and research, Lebanon, Tennessee, was selected as the home of Generations of Grace. Fundraising, promotion, and a lot of boots on the ground exemplified the period leading up to their launch day. It was a grand celebration when the doors were opened and 160 people showed up to worship.
Of course, intergenerational involvement isn’t the magic bullet to church growth. Each week since their launch, Generations of Grace has faithfully lifted up the name of Jesus in word and action. In action, the church has emphasized whole-church responsibility. “We believe that every member of the church is called to minister to those around them, rather than just relying on ‘the church’ to do or initiate ministry,” Kathy explains. “We encourage each person to find a place, person, or organization to engage with in ministry outside of church activities.” Generations of Grace even budgets money for this purpose. One member is engaging in anti-bullying ministry; another is sponsoring and mentoring with Alcoholics Anonymous. Another is sponsoring Thanksgiving dinner for a men’s halfway house.
“Generations of Grace is definitely different than most of the congregations we have seen,” Kathy reflects. “We are excited about the future that God has in store for us. As our vision statement says, ‘We are impacting families and community for generations to come!’”
For more information about the Church of God, visit www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.