Tips for Creating an Intergenerational Gathering at Church

This Sunday School Welcomes all Ages – and makes ‘em sit together!

Table with flowers intergenerational

How could I guarantee that each table would have an intergenerational representation?  My solution: silk flowers and quart jars.

An Intergenerational Gathering
At the Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids Michigan we started Intergenerational Sunday School (IGSS) in the Fall of 2013.  On the first Sunday of the month from September through May, during our education hour,  IGSS replaces our normal Sunday school classes.

Instead of watching adults go off to their classes and sending each grade of kids to their separate classrooms, all generations (even our nursery kids!) are invited to meet together in the fellowship space. We set up round tables that seat eight people. But how could I guarantee that each table would have an intergenerational representation? My solution: silk flowers and quart jars.

How it Works
As people enter the fellowship space, there is a table loaded with baskets and vases of silk flowers and ferns. I determined five different age groups and assigned each age group their own flower color. The groups are:

  • Age 0 – 6th grade
  • 7th – 12th grade
  • High school grad through 29 years old
  • 30 – 55 years old
  • 56 years old and up

The participants are instructed to ‘make a bouquet’ by wandering through the fellowship space and placing their flower in a quart jar located at the center of a guest table.  No table is permitted to have more than three flowers of the same color in their bouquet — meaning at least three different age groups will be represented at a table of eight people. Note: I don’t have rules about parents sitting/not sitting with their own children as I feel that decision is best left to the parents.

Table with flowers for intergenerational

Why I Like this Method

1. Instead of awkwardly walking around a large space wondering where you belong, everyone has been given clear instructions about where they belong.  The focus becomes, ‘Where does my flower belong?’ which is much less intimidating then ‘Where do I belong?’

2. It creates a colorful centerpiece!

3. It guarantees people will get to know other members of their church family outside of the normal peer group.

Other Tips

1. Find Table Hosts: someone who will arrive early at each guest table, invite others to join them, take the lead in facilitating discussion, and help with clean up afterwards!

2. Always provide crayons or markers and blank paper at every table. Nursery kids and introverts of all ages will thank you!

3. Relationships formed at tables will most likely by fairly new and therefore fairly fragile. Don’t burden these relationships with more than 15 minutes of table discussion at a time, or things may get awkward.  Better to leave ‘em wanting more…

What Happens at Intergenerational Sunday School
We have just begun our second year of IGSS, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Attendance varies between 150-200 people, which is slightly above our average education-hour attendance on non-IGSS Sundays.  It truly has become an intergenerational setting where members of our church family can engage and connect.

And of course, it is so much easier to fulfill our baptism vows to receive, pray for, help instruct in the faith, encourage and sustain in the fellowship of believers’ all members of our church family, when we know each other by name!

In terms of the content of IGSS, we center our discussion and activities around the sermon passage of the day, which follows the lectionary cycle. Jolanda Howe, a good friend and a member of our church with experience writing Sunday school curriculum, meets with me to create our IGSS curriculum.  Each IGSS meeting contains the following elements:

  • Table introductions
  • Opening question
  • Singing
  • Large-group presentation of today’s topic
  • Table discussion of today’s topic
  • Closing activity

A Sample IGSS Outline for September 2014, Theme: Renewal

1. Introduce yourself to table members & share something new you did this past year or something new you would like to try this coming year.

2. While introducing yourselves, use the materials on your table (play dough or Legos) to form something “new”  and then name it.  Bring your creation, including a label with the name of your object and the names of all the contributors, to the ‘Make All New Things’ display table.

3. Sing ‘The Lord Be with You’

4. Watch clip from “History Channel: American Restoration” and listen to pastor’s brief insights on Passover and Renewal  from Exodus chapter 12.

5. Discuss & dream with your table members about what renewal could look like in our church, in our community, and in our homes.

6. End with “Renewal starts with me” craft. Participants glue large, reflective silver sequins to cardstock that has been pre-printed with Renewal starts with me.  They punch holes in the cardstock and attach a ribbon so participants can hang it somewhere as a reminder of our desire to be renewed.

If you have any questions about our IGSS ministry, please feel free to contact me at

Annette Ediger is the Minister of Faith Formation at the Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids, MI. She has served as a Sunday School teacher, Girls Club leader, and Facility Committee chair, while homeschooling her four daughters and working as the wedding coordinator for her parents’ farm, Post Family Farm. Annette and her husband, Jay, and their children live in an 1892 farmhouse in Hudsonville.


Making Bible Story Stones

Make Your Own Bible Story Stones: Pictures to Print and Use

Story Stones are a great way to help children to interact with the stories we tell them.  Symbols and pictures on the stones help us to tell the story and then children can use the stones to retell or interact with different elements of what they’ve heard. They have so much potential!

Making story stones can seem a bit of a chore, though, if painting is not your thing or if you just don’t have a lot of time.

Here is a possible solution…

The end result might not be as pretty as hand-painted stones, but they do the job!

Print out the sheet of pictures (click here), cut out and stick onto stones (flat, polished stones work best).  Now you are good to go!  As you can see, the sheet has stones to help tell several Bible stories so there is plenty of opportunity to test them out.  Let me know how it goes if you decide to test them out!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – repost from

2014 Worship and Awareness Resources are offered by PHEWA’s Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence Network (PADVN) This annual packet of worship, advocacy, and awareness resources for Observing Domestic Violence Awareness, developed by PHEWA’s Presbyterians Against Domestic Violence Network (PADVN), includes resources that faith communities might find useful in worship, in your own work with victims and survivors of domestic violence, and in educating congregational members on how to be effective agents of hope, that may empower others toward restoration (and in doing so, be restored, themselves). We are pleased to use this opportunity to launch an exciting new resource written by PADVN Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Kevin E. Frederick,  Men in the Mirror: Constructing and Applying a Christ-centered Masculinity to Interpersonal Relationships, a new 13-session curriculum for use in addressing violence against women and children. Kevin writes that, “By studying the dynamics exhibited in Jesus’ relationships with a variety of others in his lifetime, this new curriculum sets out to explore and address the values that impact men’s relationships giving them the opportunity to critique their own relationship skills and grow in their discipleship to Jesus Christ.” We hope that you will use these resources in the month of October and throughout the year, working to Break The Silence around domestic violence.


Looking for an easy intergenerational Christmas pageant?

No Stress, No Fuss Christmas Pageant –

Repost from Theresa E. Cho’s blog

Discover the no stress, no fuss Christmas pageant. What’s great about it is that it takes no rehearsal and the only planning involved is acquiring the costumes, but we either made them or used the ones from previous Christmas pageants. The only speaking part is the narrator and usually I chose a middle or high schooler to read that part. Also, everyone, adults and children, can participate at their comfort level – whether it is wearing a costume or singing in the pews. The whole program allows room for telling the story, singing carols, and dressing up.  Find Part 1 and Part 2 at the links below

The Children’s Bulletin – Which one is right for your church?

This article was originally published on Building Faith by Sharon Ely Pearson in July 2011.  I am pleased to re-post it and hope you find it useful!

Children's Bulletin with crayons

Most churches distribute some type of bulletin on Sunday mornings as worshippers enter their sanctuary for services. For some, it is the entire service printed out – prayers, readings, and hymns. For others it is simply the Order for Worship. Newcomers and visitors find bulletins to be helpful aids in following what might be an unfamiliar form of worship.

But what about the children? Sunday bulletins are not just for adults. Children who are readers are often eager to follow along the worship service with a bulletin. After all, if they can read, why shouldn’t they receive one also? Whether it be the same bulletin as their parents receive or one especially designed for them, don’t forget that children should be welcomed and greeted as they enter worship just like the grown-ups. And that might mean giving them a bulletin too.

Zip-lock bags (or other packets) with some crayons and a bulletin are a sign that children are welcome to worship at your church.There are a number of bulletins specifically designed for the use of children, to help them either follow along the service or to learn more about one or more of the Sunday readings. These materials also come in handy during the summer when you may not have scheduled programs or activities for children.

Kidsword Children’s Bulletins 
Children’s Bulletins (for grades 4-6) and Little Kidsword (for grades K-3). They offers series based on the Revised Common Lectionary, or the Roman Catholic lectionary.

Spark Worship Bulletins
These are sold by lectionary year and season.  You purchase a digital download which then lets you print as many as you like.  Included in the download is two sets of bulletins: pre-readers, and readers.  Samples are available here: sample spark bulletins.  

Gospel Grams by Sermon Suite
Focused on the Gospel of the day, the young edition is for ages 5-7.
The link for Gospel Grams 2 (for children 8-10) is a bit hard to find, so here it is: Gospel Grams 2 

The Sunday Paper
Also offered in two versions, The Sunday Paper (for ages Grade 4 and up ) and the Sunday Paper Junior (for ages PreK-Grade 3) by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard are biblically based, with whimsical illustrations of the Sunday readings

Children’s Worship Bulletins
These bulletins are in two sets: ages 3-6, and ages 7-12. They focus on the Old Testament, Epistle (New Testament) readings, or special days.

Peace Papers
Children’s bulletins from the Institute for Peace and Justice.  Each “paper” also offers background on the Sunday theme, some suggestions for ways families could follow up in their home, and additional resources for both children and adults. (Ages 6-10)
Here is the link to the order form: Order Form.

Logos Children’s Worship Bulletins
Logos Productions offers bulletins (ages 7-12) and Bible beginners bulletins (ages 4-6).
(After searching the site, we are a bit unsure exactly how to order these. If you like the sample, we suggest you call their toll-free number in order to subscribe.)

Sharon Ely Pearson is an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI). She is the author/editor of several books, most recently The Episcopal Christian Educator’s Handbook and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century. When not traveling for work or pleasure, she enjoys tossing tennis balls to her year old black lab, Chobe.