I haven't thought about it a whole lot, while at the same time the many weeks there hover in my memories and sometimes in my sermons. I miss the long drives for a milkshake and the simplicity of the ministry (ok.. it is complicated to coordinate, but the on the ground part was beautifully freeform). While trips like these are full of possible political and missional arguments, the mission was what it was and I believe it was primarily a blessing. We fed folks many sandwiches; we became closer in heart and fidelity; we had beautiful conversations and grew in mysterious ways.
This video is my powerpoint from a workshop I gave in 2011, sort of in the middle of the years of when I led this mission trip. I did go back and manipulate the photos of the Navajo children to make them less recognizable. I also added a couple of photos of participants from later years. Most of the photos are from the sight-seeing part of the trips, which I promise is not all we did. In the years following that presentation I did push a heftier literacy zone in our VBS work. The slides are both big picture about intergenerational mission and specific to our Navajoland setting.
A couple of specifics about this Intergenerational Mission:
- Our home congregation was within driving distance (6 hours if you kept at it). We rented vehicles large enough to transport children around the reservation, so we had plenty of room for our team.
- 6-12th grade youth were invited to come on the mission trip without their families; so to college-age friends and of course adults. However, most youth were there with either a relative or godparent.
- The intergenerational-ity wasn't just among congregants. At different points, my Mother and two God daughters were on the trip, and others brought nephews and their parents. Our smallest crew was about 12 people, our largest was 21; the age span was certainly anywhere from 4 to 80(?).
- Most of the time everyone stayed in the house at the church, which at the time was set up a bit like a hostel. A few summers we also had participants staying at the Gouldings campground a few miles away.
What made it work was space, time and prayer.
- The property at this mission site is both fenced and large. There was more than enough room to run around and get space, while the house was just big enough to fit everyone comfortably.
- I do not believe there is a single icebreaker or initiative game or study that can teach Christian community like actually living into it. Cooking and getting ready for each day; making each day's mission work; playing games and errand 'adventures.' Each year was the time for me when a large church lived like a family. We can overdo that complicated image, but in its ideal it is transformative.
- Daily prayer time and check in made an important difference. Who are we and what do we do...work of proclamation, work of feeding and care. Gathering and telling our story.
I am not sure what else folks would want to know about how-to-do family/intergenerational ministry. However, I would be glad to lend a consultative ear!