I’m an introvert. I love people, but I hate large groups and I despise small talk.
This means that my least favorite time of Sunday mornings is “coffee hour”. I dread this time so much so that most weeks, I make a mad dash from worship to the Youth Room, skipping over the hated coffee hour all together.
I justify this by saying that as the youth worker, in order to make students feel welcome I have to be in the Youth Room early so that I can greet students as they arrive. What’s more, I know that unlike downstairs during coffee hour, upstairs in the Youth Room, I routinely have meaningful conversations with teens.
And while all of those things are true, this year, my student leaders and I set some God-sized goals for ourselves and our youth ministry. Among them: To better connect with others of all ages in our family of faith.
To this end, this year, we interviewed some of the saints of our congregation to find out why church matters. I also intentionally attended a host of holiday parties and open houses (An introvert’s nightmare!) in order to deliberately cultivate relationships with people from my congregation who are not in some way involved in my youth ministry. Yesterday, I even spent time sharing about our youth ministry with a circle (an earlier, perhaps more social form of a small group) of women, most of whom were probably in their 70s and 80s.
I did so because I know that intergenerational relationships matter.
In fact, according to Sticky Faith, they matter a great deal.
I’ve known this for quite some time, even dating back to the power of intergenerational relationships I experienced in my own life during high school.
But after 12 years in ministry, what I’m embarrassed to admit I’m just now learning is that intergenerational ministry takes more than intentionality; It also takes me.
Intergenerational ministry starts with me. Students learn how to engage with others who are not like them by watching me do it. They learn how to step out of their comfort zones by watching me.
And that’s why come Sunday, you’ll find this introvert lingering at coffee hour rather than racing upstairs to the Youth Room.
Jen Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She’s the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She blogs at ymjen.com