If one person does something as an act of social service – could a whole household or family do it too, together?
That’s the question I pose to groups who tell me they are struggling with how to bring an “all-age” mindset to life in their own context.
Our diocesan theme for 2018 of ‘Generations Together’ has now been launched, and so it is time for every parish, school and agency to ask itself: what could we do to bring the generations together this year?
A convenient approach has been suggested by John Roberto, the legendary American guru of intergenerational ministry, who will be appearing at clergy and lay conferences in Brisbane in August. Across his suite of extremely helpful books and websites (see the list of resources below), John suggests five categories of activity which are able to become intentionally “all-age” across a range of communities: serving; learning; worshipping; story-telling; caring; and celebrating.
The first of these may sound difficult to carry out with all ages together, but in reality, it is no harder to achieve than any of the others.
I define “service” as “social action” which may take several forms: serving those in need; working to create just social structures for all people and care for all of God’s creation; and larger-scale activities such as mission trips, in which we seek to build relationships with people in need, who may live a long distance away.
Although all-age service seems to attract less attention than other forms of all-age activity, it is easy to argue that it should really be a core habit of every Christian family, church and agency. The Lord’s teaching on the centrality of serving (Matt 20), the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25), and his washing of others’ feet (John 13) are just a few lessons from Scripture which should remind us of the necessity of serving others.
So how can we do all-age service? I’ll offer just a few brief case studies.
Case Study 1: Supermarket Stake-out. An ACSQ parish contacted a local supermarket and got permission to set up a table outside where they spent Saturday inviting shoppers to buy an extra non-perishable item to give to needy people in a nearby suburb. Shoppers were OK about buying one extra item, the church was in contact with the community, the supermarket made more sales, and most importantly, the relevant parish pantry received a huge influx of needed supplies. Everyone came away happy.
Case Study 2: Regional Road-trip. Our AYCF team formed a relationship with a regional parish that had a long list of jobs, but lacked the people-power to achieve them. Over the course of a weekend, a team of adults and young adults drove to the parish and finished the jobs, some of which had been waiting literally for years. As well as the maintenance, we ran an all-age community event in partnership with the parish and other local churches to proclaim the gospel and share a lot of fun via a pool party and BBQ. As an all-age act of service, it was unforgettable.
Case Study 3: Brisbane Basket Brigade. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if a great service opportunity already exists. The BBB offers an open annual event where families gather and wrap donated gifts and food hampers into boxes which are then delivered by participants as anonymous Christmas gifts directly to selected recipients, including identified homeless people all over Brisbane. People of all ages can and do gather together for this wonderful annual event: it would be fantastic to see more Anglicans involved, as there is no charge to participate and in terms of all-age service, it ticks all the boxes.
These are just a few of the many regular or one-off Social Action opportunities which can be found across Southern Queensland, and our website (www.generationstogether.org.au) offers a list of ways to get involved across a wide range of intergenerational social service, social action and mission activities. Needless to say, Safe Ministry principles need to be observed (especially when children are involved) and formal Risk Assessments carried out as necessary. With those formalities in hand, you and other generations you know are invited to make all-age service a priority in 2018 and beyond: indeed, for some of us, Social Action is in large part what we think our Church should be all about, and what we believe we have been called to do.
The official Generations Together website: www.generationstogether.org.au
Brisbane Basket Brigade: www.brisbanebasketbrigade.com or look them up on Facebook.
John Roberto’s books are also available for free to parishioners at the Roscoe Library, St Francis College, Milton (ph: 3514 7419 or visit www.stfran.qld.edu.au)