In 1999, the Ringwood congregation adopted the principles of “Child in our Hands” (as it was then called) as the structure for ministry and congregational life they saw as their vision for the future. To avoid the misinterpretation of this approach as centred entirely on children, it is now more commonly called “Intergenerational Ministry”.
This approach was developed during the ministry of Pastor Andrew Brook and reaffirmed with the forming of the Ringwood Knox parish under Pastor Stephen Pietsch. Since then we have employed a family ministry worker with the express purpose of implementing and developing this comprehensive approach. Again in 2008, the Parish Annual General meeting reaffirmed this direction.
Intergenerational Ministry simply involves moving a congregation towards being a truly inclusive and integrated community which is intentional about the mission of passing on the faith to the next generation, particularly nurturing our youngest members in the faith that begins at their baptism. As passing on the faith happens most in the home, families are especially supported and equipped to live the faith together. The congregation becomes a place that nurtures families and all members into mature faith, providing a welcoming and thinking climate that contributes to faith maturity.
We have continued to see growing awareness of the changes and blessings of this intergenerational approach through:
- the special gifts given to children baptised in our parish;
- the celebration of significant milestones like baptismal anniversaries:
- baptised children are given a card on each baptismal birthday as a reminder of their baptism; Ringwood congregation also provide an age appropriate resource to assist parents in their role of passing on the faith;
- annual Baptism Celebration worship services are held at both Ringwood and Knox;
- the active inclusion of children in worship (a continuing process);
- the ongoing redevelopment of the Ringwood Sunday School, seeking to involve more adult mentors in getting to know the children of the congregation;
- the development of a lively youth group, mentored by older members of our parish.
Story rug quilt and book
Children's baptismal candles near the Paschal candle at a Baptism Celebration service
Baptisms in both congregations are celebrated as a special congregational event along with the family of the person being baptised. Special gifts are given to encourage and support the family in their role of nurturing this newly created faith. These include a hand made faith chest, to store special resources for passing on the faith, and hand decorated baptismal candles, which can be lit each year on the child’s baptismal birthday.
The Knox congregation provides a children’s Bible for parents to begin sharing the great stories of faith with their children. The Ringwood ladies make story rug quilts with an accompanying story book as a resource for parents to begin talking the faith with their children.
Baptism Celebration services provide an opportunity to celebrate and renew our baptismal vows and recall God’s baptismal promises to us. All families who have had children baptised in our congregations are invited to this annual celebration and gifts are given to the children.
Although we can point to some visible fruits from this intergenerational approach, its development is not a quick process. It is not a quick-result driven program that is here today but soon replaced by the next fad. It is rather a generational change of direction, which needs to be nurtured and built over time. It returns us to the biblical God-given model of supporting the family as God’s first order of society and, through it, the Church.