You've heard it's a good idea. You read a book and a few articles. The church leadership is on board. You're going to do it: intergenerational Sunday school.
Intergenerational discipleship is one of the greatest challenges churches are facing today. But should it be? While our generations are more divided than ever in the church, intergenerational faith formation is a core practice that has been part of religious culture since the beginning.
By approaching this discipleship from a 21st century lens, you can revive the practice and make it effective and engaging. The first step is finding or creating a curriculum that works for all participants. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
It's easier to adapt a kids' curriculum to include adults than vice versa
You're better off looking at a children or youth curriculum for a completely intergenerational experience. Adult curriculums are often made specifically to challenge more mature minds and are difficult to make kid-friendly. But remember: when I say take a kids' curriculum and adapt it up, be sure you do actually adapt it to meet your adult generations where they are, too.
What's good for kids is good for adults
Adults may be capable of growth through simply reading a book and having small group discussion. But even adults enjoy getting to do hands-on activities and acting silly every once in a while. This is good news! It gives you more freedom and options when selecting a curriculum for your intergenerational Sunday school class.
Look for a well-rounded curriculum
Activities are great, but you will want a curriculum that provides opportunities for class discussion in addition to structured interactive experiences. Storytelling is the key practice of intergenerational discipleship, and classroom discussion ensures stories are shared across the generations.
Choose curriculum based on your context, then adapt
Curriculum in any congregation is only as good as its adaptation to your specific setting. Consider what "intergenerational" looks like for you. What ages does it include? Anticipate how many people are likely to participate in your intergenerational Sunday school program.
Consider the space you have to work in. If the curriculum you choose requires a large, open play space but you only have a room stuffed with tables and chairs, you'll want to choose a different curriculum. Or, at least, choose only the activities that work with your space and age span. If your group includes a significant number of prereaders, use more visually-driven curriculum than language-driven.
Don't only focus on the kids
Remember: this isn't kids' Sunday school that you're inviting adults to attend. This experience should be as educational and faith-forming for adults as it is for the children and youth who participate.
Sunday school can be a catalyst for transformational discipleship, so don't shy away from topics or theology that goes above the youngest participants’ heads. While you do need to ensure there's something for everyone, everything doesn't have to be for everyone. Be sure you are challenging the adults in the group to grow in their own faith as much as the kids and youth.
Here's the good news: almost any curriculum can work for intergenerational Sunday school. (Almost.) And while curriculum is often your first important choice, remember it's not your most important choice. It is a tool with which you build intergenerational relationships and foster discipleship. Keep those relationships as your primary focus, and you can't go wrong!
In future posts for this series, I'll share some of my best tips on planning other facets of your intergenerational Sunday school class. In the end, you’ll be able to create an experience that will engage and inspire participants of all ages and stages. You can do it, and it's not as hard as you think!