Book Summary: Intergenerational Religious Education

For the past year or so, several of my colleagues and I have been delving into the area of intergenerational ministry and education. With people like David Kinnaman telling us that young adults are leaving churches in alarming numbers, the imperative to connect young adults with older adults has never been greater.

According to most authors and experts in the area of intergenerational education, James W. White’s Intergenerational Religious Education is the foundational text. Written in 1988, the book strikes a good balance between theory and practice, and serves as a good introduction for those interested in exploring intergenerational education in churches.

White defines intergenerational religious education (IGRE) as “two or more different age groups of people in a religious community together learning/growing/living in faith through in-common-experiences, parallel-learning, contributive-occasions, and interactive-sharing” (18). After further commenting on this definition, White describes several existing or possible settings for IGRE: the family group, the weekly class, the workshop or event, the worship service, the worship-education program,  and the all-congregation camp (35-58). For those wondering what IGRE might look like in their own context, this section will help stimulate the imagination about how one’s current church ministry structure might be tweaked to encourage more IGRE.

Next, White goes through the Biblical and social-scientific foundations for IGRE, pointing out texts and developmental theorists that confirm the helpfulness of IGRE. If you’re already convinced of the importance of IGRE, this section is less necessary to read. But it helps make the case to skeptics.

The final section of the book gives some prescriptive practices for implementing IGRE in a local church context.Included here are some possible goals and outcomes, as well as ways to evaluate whether your IGRE models are working.

Bottom line: Coming in under 300 pages, this book is a great way to start your journey down the path toward IGRE in your context. It gives helpful arguments in favor of IGRE and then helps you begin implementing it in your church.

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