I am no expert in multi-generational small groups (or anything really), but I believe our churches could benefit greatly from them. Our church recently reformatted our small group ministry: off-campus, in homes, and with less emphasis on life stage divisions. The move off campus was a big enough step, we didn’t think we could go whole hog on the multi-gen front at the same time. But here is why I think they’re a better approach to biblical community than age/life stage groups.
1.) They’re a more accurate picture of the Body of Christ.
The Church is not made up of one generation or demographic, so when we limit our learning and fellowship to only people just like us, we are not representing the diverse spiritual family that God has given us. It’s easy to group up with people just like us. It’s natural. But when we embrace the fullness of what it means to be “many members, one body,” we display a supernatural unity, showing the world that we are bonded by something greater.
2.) They foster more 1 Timothy 5 relationships.
The diversity of the Church is functional, not just aesthetic. When believers are in community with older and younger believers, the opportunities for mentorship and discipleship increase. Recently a church member was floored at the idea of small groups made up of one demographic. “The group is only young couples? There’s no mentor couple to tell them, ‘This is normal. This is how you can work on that, etc.?’” It seemed silly to him which was refreshing to me! Think about how common it is for young men or women to spend all their church time with people going through the exact same things as them because of the natural affinity that exists there. Then think about how common it is for those same men and women to start seeking mentors. “I need someone to meet with me one on one so I can grow.” If this mentorship was built into your weekly community, they wouldn’t need another event or appointment to work on that area of their walk.
3.) They’re more sanctifying!
It’s not easy to cross generational or life stage lines to build community, but it’s crucial. Now I’m not advocating seeking out the most ridiculously difficult things in life, just so God can sanctify us all the more. But, when we do difficult things by faith, we grow. I think it’s important to grapple with awkward conversations and questions to better understand each other, because it means we’re bonding over spiritual oneness and learning from each other’s environmental differences. It’s good for singles to see how married couples pursue the Lord together. It’s good for empty nesters to be reminded of, and be able to encourage those in the midst of, diaper duty and bottles. It’s great for parents of young ones to get a glimpse of what life is like for parents of preteens and teens, etc. These are not the pressing felt needs of any of those groups of people, but they are awesome moments of growth and preparation as we build each other up in love. What a great opportunity to use our different gifts and experiences!