“One generation shall commend Your works to the next, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”
Our Mission Statement says:
Celebrating that which unifies us and that which makes us unique, we are intentionally building an intercultural, intergenerational community of faith in Jesus Christ that cares for, and serves, one another and our city.
We are seeking to be intentionally intercultural and intergenerational. Remember, there is a big difference between the prefix “multi-” and the prefix “inter-”. In multi-ethnic/multigenerational communities many different cultures and/or generations are in an organization together, but there is little interaction or appreciation for the other. These communities take great photos, but they are rife with miscommunications and misunderstandings, tribalism and territorialism, fear and frustration.
“Inter-” speaks of people from many different cultures and/or generations being in community together, and there is intentional engagement. Intercultural/intergenerational communities seek a deeper understanding and respect for all cultures and ages. Communication focuses on the mutual exchange of ideas and the development of deep relationships. In truly intercultural/intergenerational communities, no one is left unchanged because everyone learns from one another and grows together.
Here at First Presbyterian, we have done well focusing on becoming more intercultural, but we must remember, we’re seeking to be intergenerational, too! We have a wide spectrum of ages and generations, from the cradle to adults in their 90s. We don’t want to think we’re intergenerational just because we have a wide range of ages. “Inter-” implies mutual value and respect, a deepening of relationships and ideas, and transformation of all through those relationships.
I’m excited that our interim Director of Youth Ministry, Scott Overpeck, wants to strengthen our intergenerational ties. Many congregations have incredible youth ministries. They have exciting Sunday and midweek programs, camps, retreats, and mission trips. But when the students from these ministries graduate from high school, they all too often visit churches looking for an experience similar to the one they had in their youth group. And when they don’t find it, they abandon the church.
On the other hand, students who plug into the larger church, and build relationships with older adults and children, have a better understanding of the whole Church family and more often remain connected to the church the rest of their lives.
For this reason, Scott is not implementing a separate youth ministry on Sunday mornings at 10A. Rather, he is encouraging youth to plug into other ministries in the larger church, whether assisting in the children’s ministry or in worship in the English or Spanish services. You may see more young people involved in reading scripture or praying in worship, playing instruments on praise songs, or helping run sound or video.
The next step in Scott’s plan for integration is to connect individual students with individual adults in the congregation. The idea is that there will be a kind of mentoring or discipleship going on. Now, this does not mean adults need formal training in discipleship. It means taking time to care for, pray for and love these young people. It might mean contacting them once every couple of weeks or so to see how they’re doing and how you might pray for them. It might mean sending them a card on their birthday. It might mean attending a school concert or game. It might mean giving them a little something when they graduate.
Now I recognize this is nothing new to FPCSA. We’ve had similar programs back in the day when Joyce Smith and Mary Lee were here. But it’s been a few years since then. And we have a whole new generation of students who could use a little encouragement, support, and love. And trust me, as is usually the case in ministry, when you pour into other people’s lives, you experience a renewed interest in the ministry and a renewed sense of purpose. Rather than being a burden, it becomes a source of energy and inspiration.
Be on the lookout for a poll from Scott asking if you are interested in being paired with a student. I’ve already started reaching out to high school seniors and recent graduates (there are 5 of them) to start a focused discipleship program between January and June with the pastor. I’m excited to spend time with these outstanding young people, to love and challenge them, and to learn from them.
A final comment: Scott is still planning to have gatherings with the youth, just not on Sundays at 10A. There will be a program once a month on a Sunday after church (around 11:15A). And there will be monthly gatherings off-campus for fun activities as well as mission opportunities. Scott is also focusing on connecting with the students throughout the week.
I’m excited for this next stage in the life of our church. Under Sandra’s leadership, the children’s ministry is really taking off. And now with Scott guiding our youth, I see exciting days ahead for students. But not just our children and youth, I see a strengthening of our whole church family. In so doing, we will continue to strengthen and embrace our church family as an intentional intercultural and intergenerational community of faith in Jesus Christ. We pray for God’s leading and blessing in the days ahead.
I remain yours in Christ’s Love and Service,