What is an Intergenerational Mission Trip and what are the benefits?
An intergenerational short-term team is made up of multiple age groups, who are not necessarily related to each other, participating on the same trip. Intergenerational teams value the attributes of different ages,
making up a strong team.
Intergenerational teams can include at least some of these age categories:
- CHILDREN – They are the best missionaries – language, unfamiliarity, different cultures, and even mud doesn’t generally scare them. They make friends with everyone.
- YOUTH – They have energy. When well directed, youth can participate with seemingly unlimited energy and enthusiasm.
- YOUNG ADULTS – They are idealists. They are concerned about social justice issues, fairness, and fighting for change. They want to learn so they can do something about it.
- ADULTS – They care about families and children. They are in the midst of a career with skills they can utilize in various ways.
- SENIORS – They have all of the experience and wisdom a trip needs, plus a huge number of skills. They also know how to have a long-term vision.
Put all of those together and you have a short-term team with many of the benefits you’d want on any team. Silo the ages and you’re limited to the narrow attributes of one generation.
I’ve been asked questions by Global pastors and community members such as: “Where are their parents,” concerning youth teams; “Where are their kids?” concerning adult teams; and others simply asking, “Where is the rest of the church?”
In general, the Global Church works like a family. While Global Churches do have children’s classes, youth groups, women’s groups, etc. they tend to do a lot together as one intergenerational group. The older believers mentor and disciple the younger believers, not as part of a program or as a paid position, but as part of church life.
When nationals notice that teams going on mission trips are from one age group they are wondering where is the rest of the “church family.” Would the Global Church send a team from their church to the USA made up of only one age group? Probably not.
Intergenerational ministry within the church is vital to the spiritual growth of the children, youth and young adults in our churches. Meeting with older adults can make the difference in a young person’s journey with Christ.
Why not do this on a short-term trip? Doesn’t that make sense? Since discipleship of the goer is an essential part of every short-term trip, wouldn’t you want a variety of believers to go in order to maximize discipleship? A variety of ages brings a variety of perspectives, bringing a richness to the Gospel.
Intergenerational short-term trips offer the best opportunity for a team to include all these great attributes that make up for the best type of team. They make sense to the Global Church and they offer the greatest opportunity for meaningful discipleship. As someone who has organized short-term trips for thirty years, when anyone asks me what the best type of team is, I always answer, “Intergenerational teams for sure!”
Here are what some participants in Intergenerational trips say about their experience:
“Having teams with all ages gives the trip more credibility. It opens doors. The dynamic of a team changes when there are children all the way to senior adults. People notice and are more attracted to what the team is doing.” Ida Hermansson – Church planter, Sweden
“During our processing times in the evenings, it seemed that everyone had a place that they fit. The youth and parents would learn from the older generation, hear their stories and words of encouragement. They realized that the older generation still had much to give, and were not old ‘fuddy duddies’. The older folks would be shoulder to shoulder with the youth, saw their strengths, and shared wisdom with them. They also realized that the youth of today were not all ‘punks’ and that there is hope in the younger generations.” Heather Caraway – team leader, Kansas City
“We all learned about the respect and reverence the Taiwanese culture has for the entire church, not just one age group. The fact our trip had people of many ages actually ended up showing respect to the Taiwanese culture, and they told us that. While we were in Taiwan we had one team member celebrate his 80th birthday, a couple celebrate their 50th anniversary, and youth who had just completed high school participating in all of it. The Taiwanese church celebrated with us and it was amazing.” Robert Plant – team leader to Taiwan
“My dad, who is in his 60s, was sitting under a tree in Santiago with a 4-year-old from our team. The child attracted all of the kids from the community and my dad engaged with them playing and having fun. The next day, at our VBS, both the 4-year-old and my Dad were the local children’s favorites, because they were already known. It made a huge difference in our connecting with the kids.” Tammi Biggs – team leader to the Dominican Republic
“I remember a team from Washington came to Acre, and at first, I was wondering how it would work for a team to have so many different ages. I thought there would be a lot of conflict. But I noticed their shared experience led them to listen and learn from each other. Their debriefings were rich.” Jamerson Silviero – English teacher, Brazil
“Intergenerational teams are what the church should really look like. The giftedness and talents of all the people of God are shown in these types of teams. This is the complete Body of Christ in action.” Jochy Hernandez – church planter, Dominican Republic
You can find intergenerational trips offered by the author’s organization Merge, here.
To search for other trips for your group, search: ShortTermMissions.com
Article by Dale Lusk, International Director – Global Engagements USA, Merge International