Contours of the Kingdom of God (January 6-27)

Teaching in General

Intergenerational Christian Education
Holly Catterton Allen, in an article, “Bringing the Generations Together: Support from Learning Theory,” shares some deep thoughts on intergenerational (IG) Christian education. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how these ideas might apply to our church. Here are some excerpts:

During the last 100 years, steady changes have occurred in society that have separated families and segregated age groups, not only in educational settings, but also in life in general. These changes include the universality of age-graded public education, the geographical mobility of families, the movement from extended to nuclear family, the rise of divorce and single-parent families, and the prevalence of retirement and nursing homes for older persons and preschools for the young.

Faith communities are perhaps the only places where families, singles, couples, children, teens, grandparents—all generations—come together on a regular interacting basis. Yet, the societal trend toward age segregation has moved into churches also. Though church leaders endorse intergenerational approaches in theory, in practice American mainline and evangelical churches generally conduct many of their services and activities (worship, Sunday school, fellowship, outreach, etc.) in age-segregated settings. Consequently, children are rarely with teens or adults in religious settings, and certainly not on a regular basis. . . .

Activities of the church are often age-group oriented; consequently, children seldom hear older children or “lay” adults express spiritual thoughts, and adults rarely hear the spiritual insights of children. . . .

Cognitive developmental theory has convinced Christian educators that children learn best with other children their age doing developmentally appropriate activities. And it is true that children may learn some things better in this way. The fundamental difficulty is that spiritual development is not essentially cognitive development. In other words, the way children (and adults) grow in their understanding of math or history is not fundamentally the way they (and we) grow spiritually. Other factors are at work in spiritual development, not all primarily age-specific. Therefore applying cognitive developmental principles to a primarily spiritual enterprise may not, in itself, produce mature members of the Christian community of practice, the church. This principle-to-product dichotomy may explain the fact that the learning environments for children described in Scripture are primarily intergenerational. Perhaps God knew that some things are learned best in authentic, complex communities where children and others participate regularly with more experienced members of the culture. . . .

No better place exists for the most number of people to learn Christian ways from “more experienced members of the culture” than in intergenerational Christian communities. People of all ages and maturity levels are present actively carrying on the very essentials of Christianity. In IG communities, children learn from each other, younger children, older children, teens, and adults. And adults learn from teens and children. All benefit from each other with a sense of mutuality; in essence, they grow each other up into Christ. (Lifelong Faith, Spring 2009,

Introduction to the Unit

Mark pulls no punches and is not interested in making the disciples, Pharisees, or any other would be followers of Jesus, look good. Mark tells it like it is, including the failings of Jesus’ followers. In doing so, he brings comfort and renewed hope to Christians who would fail under the weight of persecution. Disciples failed, were forgiven, and became faithful followers. There is hope for second chances. We too, can find grace when we falter.

R. Alan Culpepper writes, “The effect of this constant testing is to underscore Jesus’ warnings to the disciples about the necessity for self-denial, cross bearing, faithfulness, and vigilance. The failure of the disciples not only dramatizes the consequences of failure to meet the tests of persecution, but also heightens Jesus’ faithfulness in continually returning to bring sight to the blind and a second chance for those who stumble: “Go to Galilee, there you will see him” (16:7) (Mark: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, Macon: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2007, p. 21).