When intergenerational learning happens, bonds are formed. Wisdom is shared. Faith challenges are tackled. Most important, these relationships bind people to the church and to one another so the faith can be organically passed down the generations. Here are some principles for intergenerational education.
Keep in mind that process is more important than product. Bringing generations together for a positive relational experience is more important than the activity you are using to do so or the finished product you are trying to create.
Seek understanding. Do research to get to know the expectations people of different generations may have.
Teach relational skills. Teaching the “five finger rule” helps if one person or group dominates conversation. If someone speaks, he is instructed to raise his thumb in his lap. Four other people must speak (raise the other four fingers to count) before that person may speak again.
Identify key influencers. Gather several generations together for a conversation about ideas, challenges, possibilities, and problems (holes) before you begin. Then fill any “holes” they identify.
Do something together. “Doing” builds bridges of cooperation and communication in nonthreatening ways. If an activity is too complicated to be done in one session, parcel it out to two or more.
Understand differing ability levels. An older adult might not be able to kneel on cement to do a chalk drawing, and a younger child might not have scissor skills for cutting felt, but they could work together to accomplish both.
Be prepared to modify time or content. If the group goes off on a tangent but communication and process are working well, let it happen. Be flexible.
Involve learners as leaders. The young and old should be teaching and learning from one another. Design ways for each generation to shine.
Use scaffolding. In education, scaffolding is the support given during the learning process. As competence is achieved, the support structures are removed and more responsibility is given to the student.
Evaluate. Involve participants (and key influencers) in evaluation. Learn from what worked and what didn’t, and listen for other approaches they might suggest.
Learn on more ways to support lifelong faith growth in The Pedagogy of Faith..
Post adapted from The Pedagogy of Faith, pages 167–72, © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.