How-To #2: How to Encourage Cross-Generational Relationships at Meeting

As we mentioned in the introduction to our How-To series, we will be sharing a new question each month with suggestions/ideas from sisters from different stages of life and geographical locations. We are not intending to present “one answer” to many of these questions, but instead want to make available a buffet of ideas to help individuals and families “Magnify the LORD” in their lives.

How to develop cross-generational relationships at meeting:

It really comes down to being conscious about it and putting in the effort. CYC Elders’ dinners are very good!  Also encouraging your children to choose an elder to say hello to each Sunday.  My parents do a breakfast in their own home for all the young people in the area twice a year and that is good at building relationships.

I know of one older couple who has challenged a family of teenagers to memorize Psalm 119 – once all the kids have memorized the Psalm they’ve offered to take the kids to a waterpark for the day. It takes a long time to memorize that Psalm so they can continue to ask them about it and see how the memorizing is going. You could do this for a chapter or Psalm, or even the Commandments of Christ. Offer to memorize it with the young people as well!

Not having immediate family living nearby, we’ve talked and thought a lot about how the ecclesia is our spiritual family.  We’ve tried to talk about the aunts and uncles and older members of the ecclesia in this light to our children.  And we’ve found that there are many aunts and uncles who either don’t have grandchildren or have grandchildren far away, as well, creating a mutual appreciation for the cross-generational spiritual family that is found in the ecclesia.  Some of the ways we’ve tried to help encourage the development of those relationships is having the kids think about those aunts/uncles during the week at home and write cards or make little baked treats.  There have also been some aunts and uncles who have hosted the kids at their home on a one-on-one basis – this especially has been great for bonding.  We’ve dropped the child off, and provided the dinner, and the aunt and uncle have done crafts or games or even gardening.

One aunt has had our children over for sewing lessons and for hiking, which we has been very special and we have been grateful for.

Once our kids were old enough to talk, we’ve had them choose one adult each Sunday to go talk with after the Memorial Meeting. Each child needs to pick a different person, and it can’t be someone that is “easy” for them to talk to (like their grandparents). In the beginning we would help them brainstorm things they could talk about (points of connection, or something interesting to ask the person about), but over time (and the relationship developing) they have no trouble coming up with what they want to talk to them about and are usually very keen for the end of meeting when they can go have their “chat” before going to play. We are blessed to be in an ecclesia with a very large Sunday School, so if we don’t intentionally make opportunities for our kids to develop inter-generational relationships they would just hang out with friends at the ecclesial hall (which isn’t altogether bad – but we know how important those relationships will become later in life!)

I think the elders’ dinner has been a fantastic opportunity for surprising connections.

A couple in our ecclesia don’t have any grandkids close by, but that doesn’t stop them from being lovely grandparents to the kids at the meeting! On Halloween they host a scavenger hunt for some of the kids in the meeting, they offer to babysit so we can go on date nights, have the kids over to learn how to tap maple trees, play lego, and bake. They are always there if we need help – they are an amazing example to us of making the ecclesia as close as your natural family.

When I moved into my first apartment as a single sister, an older couple (who I barely knew) brought me over dinner for my first evening (with enough food for multiple meals…plus breakfast fixings for the next day!) The thoughtful dinner was the beginning of one of my most special friendships to this day.

If you have some spare time, ask a mom with young kids if you can come over to help her. Maybe take her kids for a walk to a park or help her fold laundry.

For us, we’ve loved developing cross-generational relationships with people who we have found to be spiritual warriors. We’ve always found it best to invite people into our homes, allowing them to see who we are, and finding things that bind us. It may seem strange, but story telling is a massive tool we use. This allows us to break down barriers, to show vulnerability and build trust. We have also encouraged our children to develop relationships with them and use readings as a way for our kids to get to know them; asking their perspectives, listening to their wisdom and allowing the kids to read with them. This has created a close intimacy between our kids and them. Finally, we’ve sought out opportunities within the ecclesia to support and to be supported by cross-generational families and elders, specifically asking to be paired with people we don’t know well, working together on something for the truth – example: an older sister and I are both Sunday School teachers of different ages and we did a play together and we truly made it a partnership, a collaboration.

When I was growing up there was almost no other children in our ecclesia except our family. You might think we were lonely – but not at all! We had amazing older brothers and sisters who made Sunday School exciting, who invited us over on Sunday afternoons to help them around their house, who acted in Sunday School plays with us and even did weekly “Children’s Choir” with us after meeting (even though it was just our family!)

We’ve always sought out those who weren’t otherwise strongly connected and had an interest in kids. There are those that simply aren’t interested in our stage of life, and we’re respectful of that; we continue to show ourselves support and friends and allow them to be ready on their own time.

There is a lovely older sister in our area who never had children. We’ve taken her to Mothers’ Day tea parties and musical concerts with our kids, and she loves to have the kids over for a meal.

Inviting older brethren and sisters – especially those that are on their own or do not have much family around – into our homes to do the readings and or have a meal.

We have a non-official rotation of young ladies that serve refreshments to those that find it difficult to manage the stairs (bringing the elderly brothers and sisters tea and a snack and staying to chat with them), impromptu hymn songs after bible class – old and young love these.

Our Sunday School regularly makes giant cards for the elderly, especially for birthdays and get-well cards.

Our Senior CYC goes to visit the long-term care home where we have a few members living. They also host an Elders’ Dinner where they get paired up with an elder or two and that does a great job of breaking down the awkwardness of chatting to them at meeting later. Personally, we have tried to encourage our children to see the older uncles and aunties as extra grandparents – sometimes they will sit with them for an evening class, make them cards and bookmarks. We encourage them to go over and give them a hello hug and chat for a bit – we do this with the youngest currently, as she is a bit more shy – but it will lead to her being able to do that herself. Having them over into our home also opens the children to go and say hello to them more outside of the home.

Growing up in our small ecclesia there was an elderly couple who had no children in the meeting. The husband was in a wheelchair and looked very intimidating to a small child. They were so keen to develop a relationship with the kids in the meeting that they started a tradition of bringing a small bag of candy each Sunday. After memorial meeting, if you had been well behaved and had your parents’ permission, you could go get in line to get a candy for them. In the beginning we were just excited to get the candy, but they always asked us how we were doing and what we had done that week. Within a few weeks, the couple always had a child sitting with them at all ecclesial events and soon were having us back to their house for afternoon “play dates” (we thought going up/down the elevator in their house was the best!)

The people that your kids see you having a relationship within the ecclesia, will be the people that your kids will want to have a relationship with too. If your kids never see you talking or interested in certain people, then they’ll never be interested to talk to them either.

Growing up we went to elementary school with several Christadelphian children. On the last Friday of every month an older sister (who was not related to me) would pick up all the Christadelphian kids at lunch time from the school and take them to McDonalds to get lunch. We thought she was amazing and looked forward to it every month.

More Ideas

For Older Members:

  • Invite college/university students for a standing dinner invitation before Bible class.
  • Offer to host CYC at your home (or be part of a progressive dinner for CYC).
  • Invite a child over on a Sunday afternoon to go fishing or do baking.
  • Make a point of saying hello (and using the person’s name!) when you come to the meeting hall – giving hugs and handshakes go a long way!!

For Younger Members:

  • Ask older members if you could come over to do the daily Bible readings with them.
  • Ask an older member to help teach you a skill (sewing, cooking, woodworking, car repairs etc.)
  • Organize a leaf raking day to go to the homes of the older members in the fall (or wood cutting, snow shoveling, gardening etc.)
  • Ask the older members what life was like for them at your stage of life.
  • Don’t forget the little ones in your meeting – make a point to learn their names and develop a friendship with them. It will mean so much to them to have a teen friend to sit with or talk to at the meeting hall.
  • Make a point of saying hello (and using the person’s name!) when you come to the meeting hall – giving hugs and handshakes goes a long way!!

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.”
Psalm 145:4

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