Connecting Cross-Generationally to Reach the Community

I recently heard the term “generational missions” for the first time. In case you haven’t heard of it either, let me define it: “Missions that are active across all age groups and demographics that places serving together over generational silos.” 

For too long in the North American church, we have focused too much on how missions get done and not enough effort on who is doing missions. God is not calling one group to serve; he is calling all. If the church is going to be the church, all members must play their part in helping the larger vision of winning lost souls. 

When was the last time your church did a missions project with all age groups helping? If you have, you should celebrate because your church is part of a select few serving like Jesus. If we are honest with ourselves, many churches are struggling with developing a missions program that keeps everyone awake, much less focusing on reaching all generations. Instead of seeing a lack of foundational missional movement in the church, see it as an opportunity to revamp the way missions are preached and presented, and find creative ways to partner with others. 

Preach with Passion and Tell the Story.

What makes people excited about missions? A mission president or pastor who is enthusiastic about missions. A boring leader will have dull results. As the pastor or local mission president, if you are not excited about missions, then the people in the pews will also not be excited about it. The church needs missional leaders that will exude a love for missions. 

As a leader in the church, you have an incredible opportunity to share what you are passionate about in the church. If you are passionate about missions, your people will become passionate about missions, from interweaving missional antidotes into sermons or on the worship card to developing missional outreach projects where church members can be the church in action, the cumulative effect over time. 

There is something relational that happens in the local church’s life when two or more are gathered; God shows up and transforms the old and creates a new spirit. When you share the gospel in a way that connects with someone’s hands and feet, you are enabling and challenging them to become Jesus in the community. 

Present the Missional Journey as a Long-Term Engagement.

The idea of one-and-done missional services or projects must be put to rest once and for all. The church needs to see missions as the thread that holds and propels the church forward. It has been said that if you take missions out of the Bible, all you have left will be the covers. Missions are integral to who the church was created to be from its inception. 

Present missions as a journey of sharing, caring, learning, and adapting. Share the gospel of Christ with others you encounter daily in your normal activities. Care about everyone you meet, not just known believers. Find the unknown believers and love them like Jesus. Spend time slowing down in your busy schedule to learn from everyone you cross paths with, as they have something to teach you and vice-versa. Then as you engage with a person over time, begin to share God’s story of how he has transformed your life. As you follow the stages of living on mission, adapt to the concept that you are to live on a mission daily, not just on national and foreign trips. Realize that your neighborhood, workplace, and schoolhouse are your mission fields. 

Partner Inside and Outside the Local Church.

Where is God at work already in your community? It is where you and the church should place yourselves. For far too long, the church has thought it should start and control every aspect of programs to help the community. The reality is that the community does not want the church to manage them but to partner with them in building a healthier community. Within your local community, dozens of nonprofits need volunteers, board members, and donors. Find projects that resonate with your people and develop a long-term partnership. 

As you identify community partners, incorporate cross-generational groups that bring all age groups together to work for a common good. As you do, these generational groups will learn from each other, begin to trust each other, and share life on mission. These groups will strengthen and then enhance the inside and outside local partnerships around the church.

This is an exciting time for the church to reconnect with the community outside its doors. It starts not with one age group but multiple age groups working together to share the gospel of Christ with the community.

Desmond Barrett
Desmond Barrett
Desmond Barrett is the lead pastor at Winter Haven First Church of the Nazarene in Winter Haven, Florida. He is the author of several books, most recently, Helping the Small Church Win Guests: Preparing To Increase Attendance (Wipf & Stock Publications) and has done extensive research in the area of church revitalization and serves as church revitalizer, consultant, coach, podcast host and mentor to revitalizing pastors and churches.