Tag Archives: intergenerational
I have been busy organizing another intergenerational mission trip to Ensenada BC Mexico for College Avenue Baptist Church this summer. We’re calling it MexiGO! 2014 and once again, we’ll be working with YUGO Ministries out of their Ensenada Outreach Center. We’ll build homes for families who live in poverty and we’ll give neighborhood children a fun week of games, crafts and Bible stories as we conduct Vacation Bible School at the local iglesia. The date is August 3-8, 2014 (Sunday through Friday) and we’d love for you to consider going with us. You don’t have to speak Spanish, you don’t have to know anything about construction and you don’t have to be a member of CABC. I’m encouraging families in our church to consider trading their usual vacation week at the resort or amusement park for a week of ministry in Mexico.
For more than 20 years, I have conducted ministry trips to Mexico for youth groups (teenagers) but these intergenerational trips (adults and kids together) are the best by far. It’s such an amazing thing to watch parents and kids, young and old people working side-by-side and discovering together how rewarding it is to serve Christ by serving others. If you want to pass your faith and values on to your kids, this is a great way to do it.
Here’s a short promo video for the trip:
One of the students appearing in the video, 13-year old Sarah Ziegler, wrote a paper about her Mexico experience and gave me permission to reprint it here:
More Powerful Than Montezuma’s Revenge
Lifting the beanbag toss game off the ground, I hurried my way past the swarming children to the monstrous white van and loaded the game into the trunk. Then shepherding the kids, missionaries and Mexicans alike, I plopped myself down with an exhausted sigh. A young boy around six years old snuggled into my lap and joyfully poured Ensenada’s russet dirt on my old, tattered jeans. I listened intently to a familiar story spoken in a foreign language. Behind me, the sounds of saws and hammers informed me that the tiny house was nearly finished. That meant the week was almost over, too.
The Sunday beginning this special week, my family and I packed and traveled to Ensenada, Mexico with our church. We arrived and settled in for a one-week stay. I felt like I had traveled to a new planet. For example, driving to our destination, bright pink, orange, red, and green mansions loomed over the van in one neighborhood. In the next, cardboard boxes and tarps provided a roof over many families’ heads.
Finally finished with our long journey, we exhaustedly passed through the courtyard of the Ensenada Outreach Center, our headquarters for the week. A team of interns at the center enthusiastically greeted us. After unpacking in our rooms, we returned to the courtyard where we received many hugs from the family for whom we would construct a house. The family included a mother, father, and two sweet little boys, Eloy, 4, and Alexander, 1. Their current “house” consisted of a broken garage door for one wall, a bent up cardboard box for the other two, a tarp for the roof, and no door. The family’s things were jammed into the tiny “house”. It only took a day or two to realize how right I was about living in a different world. In the mornings, instead of waking up on a spacious bed in a spacious room, I found myself waking up in a room, smaller than my room back home, with my whole family sleeping therein. Instead of surveying a big closet filled with numerous clothes, I pulled out the same pair of jeans and t-shirt from a tiny suitcase and slipped them on. Throughout the day, a little girl or boy would ask me a question that I couldn’t translate. I would give the best answer I could, earning strange looks and laughter from the kids. The fake smile would appear on my face as I felt my face turning almost as red as the soil. Annoying as it is, Americans can’t drink Mexican water without disposing of it in a way I’d rather not mention. Consequently, showering and brushing teeth require lots more work. No singing in the shower aloud if you don’t want to get Montezuma’s Revenge. Brushing teeth had to be done with bottled water.
Completely opposite to my American mode, I never caught myself feeling bored, yet the only entertainment at EOC was ping pong. Oh yeah, foosball was always available, too. And there were always friends to spend time with in person, not on a text app. I’ll not even mention that we didn’t get to do this all until after dinner. Instead of occupying myself with online games, texting, and playing with friends and on electronics all the time, I did a lot of enjoyable work and spent great time with friends who care about me. Although I really enjoyed it, I didn’t quite realize all this until I found myself sitting on the red soil of Mexico, half-listening to Roberto’s lively story. I had been shaking off the dirt, trying to keep a smile on my face while the youngster laughed as he quickly restocked my pants with dust.
Suddenly, something struck my indignant little brain. Here I sat with the gifts God gave me of precious children He loved and a simple week to escape the distracting lifestyle at home. He gave them to me out of love, but I took a long while to appreciate it. I was focused on the filthy, dirt-covered clothes I wore for the fourth time as well as on avoiding Montezuma’s Revenge from the water. The kids laughed at me sometimes, sure. But they still loved me, and everyone else on the team, for bringing some joy into their lives of hardships. I had an opportunity to love them back in that genuine love God offers. At the same time that I stopped thinking about the hardships and started thinking about the amazing gift of God’s love for this little child and the others surrounding us, my leg stilled and allowed the redness to heap up. I realized how much love I felt for the kids, despite the giggles at my poor Spanish and the awkward conversations. God loves these kids so much, I thanked God for them and said I’d try to show them a bit of the love He intended to give.
The little boy looked up into my eyes and smiled a huge smile, almost too large for his darling little face. For the first time today, I returned him a smile just as genuine.
Sarah is going with her family again this summer and you can go too! If you would like more information just contact me and I’ll send you all the details.
I know it’s hard to believe by looking at Marci and me, but we now have five grandchildren. Our oldest is 14, our youngest was born last month. All five of them are beautiful, brilliant kids who will excel at whatever they choose to do in life. If you don’t believe us, you are obviously not one of their other grandparents.
In August we had the opportunity to lead a Summer Seminar on grandparenting and in the process of doing so, we learned a lot about how special grandparents really are. For example, we learned that there are key roles that grandparents play in the lives of their grandkids.
- Teller of Stories. Grandparents are family historians. Today’s kids have been called the “cut flower generation” because they have no roots. Every child needs a connection to their past and if you’re a grandparent, then you’re it! In Joshua 4, the Lord commanded stones to be set up so that when future generations asked “What do these stones mean?” they would hear stories about the faithfulness and power of God. We too set up stones by telling stories to our grandchildren about the faithfulness of God to our family down through the years. Parents give their children wings, but grandparents give them roots.
- Giver of Blessings. It has been said that the best thing about being a grandparent is that we get to spoil our grandchildren … and then send them home to their parents! Well, we also get to bless our grandchildren, not with money or things, but with our acceptance, our words of encouragement, and our prayers on their behalf. As grandparents, we want to spend as much time with our grandchildren as possible so that they will hear often how much we love them and how much God loves them too.
- Maker of Memories. I have vivid memories of time I spent with my grandfather in Tennessee, learning how to whittle a hickory stick into a slingshot, or learning how to fish with a cane pole, or watching him make watermelon rind false teeth. Mostly I remember how my grandparents would put their hands on my head and pray with loud voices as if God were hard of hearing. Those are unforgettable, life-changing memories. Likewise, the time we spend with our grandkids today can become memories that last a lifetime and make a powerful impression.
- Example to Follow. As grandparents, we pray that our grandkids will grow up to become people of great faith and character. While parents tend to worry about their children’s behavior, their schoolwork, their achievement in sports and academics, we don’t worry so much about things like that. We just want our grandkids to grow up to become good people—people who love God and love others. Researchers tell us that the influence of grandparents on their grandchildren is second only to the influence of their parents. With this in mind, we pray we will be good examples of the kind of people we want our grandkids to become.
At our Summer Seminar we learned lots of great ideas from the grandparents who attended, but mostly we gained a whole new appreciation for what an awesome privilege and responsibility being a grandparent really is. As the Word of God says: “Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your hearts wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.” (Deut. 4:6b MSG) No doubt about it. Grandparents leave for their grandkids a legacy of faith they can’t get any other way.
Last week I led a group of 20 people from CABC (College Avenue Baptist Church) to Ensenada, Mexico for an intergenerational short-term mission trip. Once again, we stayed at YUGO Ministries’ Ensenada Outreach Center (EOC) and worked with their staff to build a home for a family living in poverty and also to conduct a VBS program for neighborhood children. We have partnered the past few years with a small church in the community of Salitral called “Fuego de Dios” (Fire of God). Pastor Nicolas Gallegos shepherds a small flock there and does a remarkable job of reaching out to this little community. YUGO’s “Houses of Hope” program helps local churches serve families in the neighborhood in a very tangible and practical way. Families who receive new homes feel a special connection to their local church long after the house is built, and the ministry continues.
We built a home for a family of six who were living in a one-room house that was built for them by another ministry (Amor, perhaps) many years ago, probably when the family was much smaller. The new three-room house that we built was right next to the old one, so the family can now use both. Their kitchen, which was outside, can now be moved inside. The children will now have beds of their own rather than all sharing a common one.
We also conducted a Vacation Bible School program at Pastor Nicolas’ church each morning for about 35 children. Along with games, crafts and Bible stories, we did a puppet show each day. I built a portable puppet show stage made of PVC pipe and curtains and I purchased some pre-recorded puppet show scripts that were in Spanish, so our puppeteers only had to move the mouths of the puppets in sync with the dialogue. They worked great, although on the first day, one of the children began crying hysterically when the puppets started to talk. Apparently the little guy had never seen puppets before and they scared him to death. You can imagine what a small child would think upon seeing such odd-looking creatures come to life. He seemed to like (or at least to tolerate) the puppets the rest of the week.
It was a good week of ministry. Although our Mexico team was smaller this year than last, we had a good mix of people who worked hard and accomplished much. Chuck and Shannon Fisher, with their kids Jon, Sara and Chris, are old pros—this was their third year in a row. Bill and Debbie Gossett, with their two sons Joe and John, came out all of the way from Minnesota. Laura Morales, a single mom, brought her two children Roy and Victoria. Sara Fisher invited two of her friends (Tori and Maddie) and made up the puppet team. Bob and Luanne Holaday, longtime members of CABC, joined me as senior members of the team. Esther Tejada and Oscar Miramontes served as our interpreters. Bryce Klabunde, CABC’s Pastor of Soul Care, also came for the third year in a row and helped immensely on the construction team.
This was my fifth year doing a family mission trip to Mexico and my third with CABC. In my view, these trips perfectly accomplish my ministry goals as “Pastor to Generations” at CABC. It’s my favorite week of ministry of the year. Hardly anything else comes even close as a vehicle for passing faith from one generation to the next.
A week in Mexico is a complete immersion experience in intergenerational discipleship. Parents and children serve Christ together, working side by side for five days. They engage in extended conversations about faith and values. They participate in doing something together that is truly remarkable and very significant as they impact the lifestyle of a family much like their own. They worship together and receive biblical input each day from the YUGO leadership who help them process and learn from what they are experiencing during the week. They have a fun, positive family experience which rivals any family vacation or family camp. And with Mexico being so close to us in San Diego, it’s not expensive and easily accessible. All that’s needed is a passport and an appetite for some of the best street tacos on the world.
Hopefully we’ll be doing it again next year. Let me know if you’d like to go with us.
Our church (College Avenue Baptist Church) recently held it’s first-ever intergenerational, all-church retreat at Pine Valley Christian Camp, about 30 minutes out of San Diego. It turned out to be the coldest weekend San Diego county has had in quite a few years. Temperatures dropped into the teens at night (we even got some snow) but during the day, sunny blue skies in the mid-50’s. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for a winter retreat. About 200 people attended, about a third of our Sunday morning crowd.
Our theme was community-building. I presented three seminar-style messages on the topic over the course of the weekend and since all ages were together, I had the challenge of engaging all the children who were there (as well as the adults). A few word-games and puzzles based on the theme seemed to do the trick. The feedback we’ve had from the retreat has been very positive so far. Whether or not we will actually see more unity in our congregation, more relationship-building between the generations and more disciples being made remains to be seen but I think we achieved what we set out to do.
One of the highlights of the weekend was our Saturday night talent show. At first I wasn’t sure we’ve have any talent at all (folks were a little hesitant to sign up in advance) but after we got there, the talent emerged and we had about 15 acts competing for the “CABBY” award, a trophy that was created especially for the occasion. Our winner was a 15-month old little girl named Karis who danced while her father played the guitar and sang. I emceed the show, or should I say “Buck Stud” emceed the show, an alter-ego of mine from Youth Specialties days who you might say is a cross between Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Swaggert. There’s a brief shot of Buck in the video clip. Buck did a Christian version of “New York, New York” called “New Jerusalem..” After the talent show, one of our older ladies at the retreat asked, “Who was that man who emceed the talent show, anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before.” Ha. I guess I was disguised pretty well.
CABC@PineValley turned out to be a very successful and fun intergenerational event that included children, youth, college students, families and seniors. We played together, roomed together, laughed together, learned together, worshipped together and came back energized and excited about what our church can ultimately become. It’s a slow process of change, but I think it’s happening. To all the Generations team at CABC, I say job well done. Let’s do it again next year.
Every 5th Sunday at College Avenue Baptist, we cancel all of our childrens programming during the morning worship hour so that families can worship together all in the same place. Our services are intergenerational in the sense that our youth and adults worship together, but normally our children (K through 5th grade) have a “children’s church” which they can attend if they choose to do so. Some children remain with their parents in “big church” but not all of them. To prepare parents for last Sundays inclusive service, Pastor Carlton Harris sent out the following email to our congregation, providing his excellent suggestions and insights on how to take your kids to “big church.”
At CABC we want to make more and better disciples from among the nations who honor God by worshiping Him! This Sunday, our worship service is a 5th Sunday Family Service. We will welcome our kindergarteners through 5th graders. The worship service has been planned with them in mind. We will be singing songs that they regularly sing during their group worship time on Sunday mornings. May I encourage all of you to sit as close to the front as possible (especially if your children will be worshiping with you)?
As some of you know, I began my journey as a father in 1983. God kindly gifted us with two daughters and a son within a time span of five years and four months. From the time our children were school-aged they joined us in our worship services. Wasn’t that a stressful decision? How did we do it? A better question is how did my wife do it without my help? I was preaching and leading in most of the worship services my children participated in between the start of kindergarten and the conclusion of high school. Here is some of what I remember from that season of our life together as a family:
- We would read the sermon text for the coming Sunday during the week. Our children would perk up when they heard familiar words during the sermon.
- We gave our children their own age-appropriate Bibles. They would bring them to the worship service each Sunday. They would also bring pens/pencils and paper to draw the sermon, the environment, or take sermon notes as they grew. They also watched their mother take sermon notes.
- Preparation for worship was done on Saturday night in order to reduce chaos and distractions on Sunday morning. We would select and prepare the clothes and shoes that we would be wearing to worship. We would get our Bibles and offering money ready. When our children were infants and toddlers, we would pack the diaper bag on Saturday night as well.
- Before we entered the worship service, they would use the rest room if needed so that they would not have to unnecessarily leave the worship service.
- We desired and expected our children to be respectful toward God and other worshipers around us.
- Our children would take a worship folder. Before the worship service began, my wife might point to the different elements in the order of worship, such as songs that they knew and liked. If there was something for which they needed to be prepared such as a responsive reading, she would point it out to our children who were old enough to participate.
- We would all participate as worshipers by sitting, standing, singing, closing our eyes, turning in the Bible, etc. with the rest of our church family. My wife and I wanted our children to see us sing praise to God with joy on our faces, or tears trickling down our cheeks, or hands clapping. We wanted our children to see her listen hungrily to God’s Word and watch me preach it passionately. In short, we wanted our children to feel our hearts meeting the living God during worship. We sought to model looking at the worship leader(s). So, we sat as close to the front as possible – usually on the first or second row – to reduce distractions like people-watching or clock watching. We wanted our children to see the front as well as possible. My wife would share worship folders, hymnals, and Bibles with our young children because those things are important tools for worship. We did not bring other books to the worship service for our children to read because we wanted their focus to be on worship. They could look at the pictures in their Bibles.
- When younger, our children would draw pictures of what they heard in the sermon. Individual words or names triggered individual pictures. As our children grew, their notes would involve concepts. Always remember that not everything in a worship service or sermon goes over the heads of our children!
- We would process the sermon together and the implications on how we live life in response to the Word of God.
- We would talk about unique aspects of the worship service such as a missionary speaker from a country we had been praying for.
There were times when one of our children was restless or noisy, despite our best efforts. In those times all you can do is pray for the understanding of the people around you, and try to deal with the problem discreetly. If the child is “having one of those days” and will not sit still or be quiet, you may have to take him or her out of the service. Use it as a teaching opportunity for parental training. Then decide whether you’ll reenter the worship service or not. At CABC, we have an infant cry room (with video feed) for mothers and their babies. During our worship services, we attempt to keep the foyer as a place for parents with young children who need to leave the worship service. We have video feed in the foyer during our worship services. You can help protect the foyer space for parents by not loitering or talking in the foyer during the worship service.
One of my great desires as a father has been to see my children fall in love with the worship of God both individually in private as well as corporately in public together with the body of Christ. I feel that my most important job as a parent was and is to fall in love with the worship of God and model that for my children. Why? Because worshiping God is the most valuable thing I can do in life.
College Avenue Baptist Church (San Diego) is doing something radical this coming spring. It is combining it’s two Sunday morning services into one. No longer will there be a traditional service featuring the pipe organ and Sanctuary choir followed by the contemporary service featuring electric guitars and two complete drum kits. College Avenue Baptist Church currently is a divided church. Old people go to the first service. Young people go to the second service. The pastor preaches the same sermon in each one, but these two worship services clearly serve two separate congregations-one made up of people with grey (or blue)hair who still dress up for church, the other made up made up of people in flip flops, blue jeans and fashionably bald heads (as opposed to unfashionably bald heads like mine).
Everyone agrees that unity is a good thing, that an intergenerational church is desired. But the young people are afraid the worship services are going to turn dull and boring. The old people are afraid of the guitars and the loud volume. I was having a conversation between services last Sunday with one of the older members of the church and he expressed serious doubts that this effort to combine worship service would succeed, mainly because of the music. He likes the idea of bringing generations together but he doesn’t like the idea of having to give up singing hymns and hearing the pipe organ. “Churches are having to sell their pipe organs,” he lamented, “because nobody wants to hear them anymore. That’s a crying shame!”
I suppose he’s right. If you’re in the market for a pipe organ, there are probably some good deals to be had out there. I have no problem with pipe organs. I love to hear them when they are played well, just as I love to hear any kind of music when it is good. But I have never gone to church expecting to hear the style of music that I like best (which of course is bluegrass.) When I hear people complain about the style of music being played in their churches, I can usually relate to their disappointment because I have never yet found a church (in California, anyway) that features the style of music I prefer. But that’s not what I go to church for. I really don’t care whether I hear my favorite kind of music or not.
But I’m in the minority, I think. Most people choose the church they attend based on the music they hear in the worship service. And because music styles change with each generation, churches today are predictably very age-segregated, which is shameful considering that the Lord’s only prayer for the church was that we would have unity (John 17).
While listening to this church elder lament the pending demise of the pipe organ, it occurred to me that maybe our Church of Christ friends had it right all along. The Church of Christ (denomination) has never allowed instruments of any kind in their worship services. They sing all their hymns and worship songs acapella. I’ve never quite understood why they do this (since the Scriptures actually encourage praising God with musical instruments) but I think I’m beginning to see the wisdom in it. My guess is that the worship wars we are all so familiar with are not so common in the Church of Christ.
What do you think?