Have you ever wondered how best to pass on faith? As we observe our churches, schools and community one of our central challenges appears to be developing a faith in others that will stick. What we refer to as a “sticky faith” is a term that has become used to refer to an active faith that keeps young people growing in their relationship with God and connected to the life of the church beyond their youth and into their adult years. There are some keys to developing a sticky faith that can be pursued through an intergenerational approach. One such key is a simple process that is open to all to practice and could be undertaken in whatever ministry setting you may find yourself. It is what you might call guided participation.
Guided participation as a method of learning is not new. It is how over most of human history families have passed on knowledge to the next generation. About two years ago I had the privilege of seeing this way of learning in action when visiting Murano Island near Venice. This Island is known for its beautiful glass production which has been passed through the generations over eight centuries. Here you can still watch these families pass on their highly developed skills to the next generation of glass blowers. You can observe this highly skilled work that is honed through hours and hours of guided practice under the watchful eye of the previous generation. It is a contemporary reminder of the process of learning that humans have used to pass on knowledge for vocations, social practices and faith.
It can be argued that this practice of guided participation has been diminished over the last century as the generations have become more distinctive in a period of rapid change. When humans experience of life varies so significantly from the previous generation, each generation tends to develop unique characteristics and perspectives on life. The distinctions have become such in recent history that we now have names such as Builder, Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y Millennial etc… to describe the distinctive character of each generation. These characteristic views have become such that it has often been more comfortable to work along generational lines in education, in leisure and daily family life. This practice means that, instead of knowledge being passed between generations as it has in the past, peer groups tend to teach each other. This peer learning also means that often valuable experience is not being shared and therefore lost. Generations Together seek to go against this trend when it comes to sharing our faith.
Guided Participation requires no new program, no extra resources and can be practised by anyone who has a desire to pass on the significance of faith to someone else. It does not even have to be directed towards children or youth. It could be just someone who is showing an interest in participation that you meet on a Sunday morning. All it requires is a willingness to take the time to share with another what you have come to know for yourself. At my parish at Chelmer, I am seeking to encourage the parents and grandparents to see this as a way they can introduce their children and grandchildren to a faith that might stick.