ABHMS seeks participants for intergenerational program idea sparked by Pacific Northwest gathering

VALLEY FORGE, PA (3/19/19)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) invites churches of American Baptist Churches of the Central Pacific Coast, Mission Northwest, Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches and Alaska to participate in “Intergenerational Discipleship: Growing Together,” a pilot intergenerational discipleship initiative.

The initiative seeks to bring new life to congregations by allowing children, youth and adults from ethnically, racially, socioeconomically and theologically diverse churches to learn, serve and grow in faith together. With guidance from Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., the program will facilitate intergenerational engagement via mutually beneficial mentoring relationships, monthly small group discussion online about Fuller’s “Growing Young” book, and in-person large group events, including fall and spring weekend retreats at Camp Arrah Wanna, Welches, Ore., as well as a mission trip to Kodiak (Alaska) Baptist Mission.

“The old model of Sunday school no longer fits the culture in which we live, yet the need to grow in Christian faith remains,” says the Rev. Dr. Christine Roush, West Coast lead strategist for ABHMS’ National Mission Engagement. “This intergenerational model holds such great potential for churches looking for new approaches to discipleship.”

The idea for the initiative grew from ABHMS’ premier Aligned Action Network gathering in May 2017, when 46 of the organization’s new and historic church, campus and community ministry partners from Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington met at Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore., to share best practices and actionable ideas that would ultimately create life changing ministries.

Among participants at the gathering were Roush, who was then serving as interim pastor at Cedar Hills Baptist Church, Portland, Ore., where she was struggling to start a youth ministry. Also present were Kelli Foreman, assistant executive director at Kodiak Baptist Mission, and the Rev. Reed Webster, who has since become pastor at Cedar Hills. After the gathering, Roush contacted Foreman to learn about the mission’s ministry with children and youth. When Webster, an intergenerational discipleship proponent, became involved, they realized that the need for a new discipleship model transcended their own individual ministries and could be a network focus. A team that includes other network participants is being formed to implement a Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust grant that was awarded to the project by American Baptist Foundation during ABHMS’ grant cycle.

“I am daily struck by the need for connections that cross generational lines,” says Foreman. “It’s not enough to say, ‘We just can’t reach young people because they aren’t interested in our type of congregational community.’ Instead, we must be willing to learn and grow together through intentional forms of discipleship, which lead us to transformation by learning about God and each other.”

Reed notes that his older parishioners have expressed their wish to share stories with young people but have lacked the opportunity.

He says of the program: “My hope is that participants will find unexpected friendships, a deeper sense of purpose and a renewed vitality in their faith journeys.”

ABHMS will host two Aligned Action Network gatherings in 2019. The first gathering—to be held at William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.—is paired with a Create! event May 2-4, also at William Jewell. The second Aligned Action Network gathering will be held in September at the conference office of the Cleveland (Ohio) Baptist Association.

For information about how to be part of the intergenerational pilot program, contact Christine Roush at christine.roush@abhms.org.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

 American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.