Cross-Generational Ministry

Last month our senior pastor Carlton Harris preached a vision-casting sermon based on Ephesians 2:14-22. This passage stresses how Christ created a new humanity out of two cultures (the Jews and the Gentiles) that were previously incompatible with each other. “For he himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility … (v. 14).”

College Avenue Baptist Church is strategically situated in a part of San Diego where many cultures, not just two, converge. We have people from almost every country in the world living within a few blocks of the church. So a major part of our church’s vision is to be cross-cultural, to find ways to “make disciples of the nations” right here at home.

In his sermon, Pastor Harris went on to apply this passage in another way. He challenged our church to not only become more cross-cultural, but more “cross-generational” as well. He emphasized that being cross-generational is very different from being multi-generational. Any church can be multi-generational, he said, but it takes a special kind of church to be cross-generational. In a cross-generational church, the dividing wall of hosintergenerational handstility is broken down between the generations and these very different cultures (young and old) are not only at peace with each other but actively participating together in worship, community and ministry. “Our aim is for College Avenue Baptist Church to be a cross-generational church” he emphasized, and he gave examples of how we are striving to do that in our programs and ministries.

This is the vision that drew me to CABC five years ago. I have been serving the church since then as Pastor to Generations, doing my best to help bring that vision to fruition. We have accomplished a few things but still have a long way to go.

I was intrigued by Pastor Harris’ use of the term “cross-generational” to describe what we are doing at the church. For years I have used the term intergenerational to say essentially the same thing. Others have used it too. In their book Intergenerational Christian Formation, authors Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross take several pages to discuss how the term intergenerational is defined and why it is preferred over terms like multi-generational (for the same reasons Pastor Harris pointed out) and transgenerational, which some people use. But they never consider the term cross-generational at all.

I think cross-generational has a nice ring to it–especially when used in the church. What do you think?

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2 Responses to Cross-Generational Ministry

  1. Holly Allen says:

    I am one of the authors of Intergenerational Christian Formation. I love the term cross-generational; I think it works well for your purposes. And we do use the term cross-generational throughout our book; it is in the title of Chapter 19, and also on p. 12, p. 19, p. 25, p. 34, p. 36, p. 47, p. 49, p. 50, p. 68, p. 74, p. 81, p. 83, p. 96, p. 97, p. 123, p. 124, p. 130, p. 162, p. 172, p. 173, p. 181, p. 186, p. 199, p. 201, p. 240, p. 260, and p. 266. It is a great descriptor, and will be used more and more frequently I think. Other good descriptors are cross-age and interage.

    Holly Allen

    • Wayne says:

      Thank you for your kind response and I apologize for saying that you didn’t consider the term cross-generational in your book. I read your book last year and should have known better. If fact, I bought copies of your book for our whole staff. Maybe that’s where our pastor picked up the term! Hopefully one of these days we won’t need any term other than “church” to describe what we’re talking about. Thank you for writing your book and I hope it continues to sell and have wide influence in the church.

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