Have More Fun, Take Away Age Parameters

Fuller Youth Institute

Today's guest blogger is Jim Sparks, a leader within Salvation Army youth ministries and the SAYNetwork website/blog.

“But what if…” 

“Oh, I don’t think they would…” 

“That is more difficult than you think…” 

These are typical responses I hear when I am talking about integrating generations in programming at local churches. 

Over the past couple years I have been looking for ways to integrate generations in unique areas. One area I have had success is linking the whole church through fun events. 

Sometimes I will find myself in conversation in how linking generations is working, and inevitably someone will ask me a question ask like “How many adults do you consult with to see if there is an interest in doing the event with the teens?”  I generally laugh a little, because I guess that is what I should’ve done. But to be honest, I never consult with adults to see if they are interested. I just assume adults like to have fun too and would want to participate. 

Guess what? They do! 

So when asked how best to integrate the various generations in our programming, my answer is simple. Don’t put age parameters on the event and encourage anyone you are standing in front of to participate. 

For example, this past weekend we held our Amazing Race in Pasadena. The Amazing Race is designed just like the show by taking teams to various locations around Los Angeles and Pasadena trying to solve problems, participate in challenges, and navigate the city. The Metro train stop in Pasadena is just twenty-five minutes from downtown Los Angeles, giving us a great safe way to explore and offer up fun challenges. The race takes about five hours and is of course loved by our youth group. This year we decided to not put age parameters on it and encouraged all to join. 

The results were predictable. We had a great spread of ages and groups. We even had a full family of six run the race as their own team. Our age range was 13 – 50 and the teams were assigned to ensure a great mix. The conversations on the train between stops were incredible. One student told me how fun it was to meet and hang out with one of the adults. He didn’t know that he was that cool! 

By simply erasing age parameters, thirty teens and adults were able to share an adventure they wouldn’t forget. They were able to engage in fellowship in a neutral environment, and spend time getting to know each other while on the run. 

My favorite part of doing an event like this takes place on the following Sunday. I enjoy watching groups recap the adventurous day with each other when normally they wouldn’t chat at all. Because of a simple event, they now have social capital to keep the conversations going each week. 

What have you seen work or not work with removing age parameters from events or programs?

Published Sep 26, 2012
Fuller Youth Institute

The Fuller Youth Institute leverages research into resources that elevate leaders, kids, and families.

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