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Intergenerational discipleship the Messy Church way

A recent survey commissioned by the Church of England showed Messy Church is particularly good at attracting non-churched families. Often children lead the way, accompanied by a parent/carer, keen to belong to a community that loves and feeds their family, but with little idea of Christian basics.

Based on the values of being Christ-centred, for all ages, creativity, hospitality and celebration, Messy Church is uniquely placed to share the good news of Jesus with adults and children. We call this intergenerational discipleship, where two or more generations are physically and relationally present to each other, on a journey of following Jesus throughout life.  

Discipling generations together is nothing new and is sometimes a necessity. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 reminds us that the Church is the body of Christ. We need each other and our differences (age, ability, ethnicity, culture), to grow as followers of Jesus. When we focus on ‘who’ we follow as a Christ-centred community, the ‘how’ emerges through our values. 

It’s important to be intentional, committing to be disciples who make disciples in an intergenerational way. It will always be work in progress, so prioritise relationships, practising love, forgiveness, affirmation, and humility. 

Consider how people of all ages participate and contribute to all areas of church: aim for mixed ages on planning and preparation teams; when gathered, curate spaces where different generations can participate together; include open-ended questions, so the power dynamic is not weighted to adults; try call and response songs, removing the literary barrier for non-readers or non-English speakers; add actions from Makaton or BSL, perhaps shakers or streamers for those who are non-verbal or simply love to dance; have a mix of generations presenting and remember to gather everyone’s feedback.

Finally, think quality and not quantity. Good conversations are more likely to happen in smaller groups. To facilitate this, Messy Church has launched Messy Basics, a downloadable discipleship resource exploring what Christians believe through conversations and activities, suitable for households, intergenerational small groups, or family baptism preparation.  It complements session material from Get Messy! vol 2, for those wanting to dig deeper between gatherings.

This article was printed in Multiply 2024: The Manual, a publication that accompanied the programme of Multiply 2024, which explored multiplying a younger church. You can find related content below.