Midlife Adults: Gen X parenting is hands-on
Midlife Adults: Gen X parenting is hands-on

A family out together

This post by Jim Merhaut is part of a series inspired by the Seasons of Adult Faith Formation book, symposium, and issue of Lifelong Faith Journal. You can read the whole issue here.

Where previous generations were impressed when kids “did it by themselves,” Xer parents want to show their kids how to function and thrive in the world.

They’ll have meaningful conversations with their kids. They’ll devote huge amounts of time to the organizations that work with their kids. They’ll read to their kids.

While some colleges and universities found this characteristic of Gen X parents to be intrusive and labeled them in a derogatory way as Helicopter Parents, this high level of involvement can be a great blessing to a church. Finding parents who will volunteer for your programs with children is easier today than it was thirty years ago.

Church ministers who want to be successful with Generations X parents will loudly and regularly proclaim that the ministry door is always open to parents. Keep parents informed about the progress of their children and teens in your programs.

Tell them when the kids succeed and when they struggle. Give them tips about how they can reinforce at home what you are doing at church. Never leave them out of the loop or guessing about what is happening in your programs.

Family learning

Faith formation for Generation X parents can take the form of a variety of family and  intergenerational programs. If you’ve always dreamed of diving into the family and intergenerational ministry ocean, the time is now. Gen X moms and dads will be there to support your efforts.

Programs like Logos from GenOn Ministries or Family-centered Religious Education (F.I.R.E.) from Liguori Publications or online intergenerational resource websites like Vibrant Faith @ Home or Fashioning Faith are all great ways to get started into intergenerational faith formation.

Family service

Create family service learning experiences. You can send groups of families away for a weekend or a full week in the same way that you typically send teens on service trips, but these family service trips will be far more powerful than your teen trips.

It has been demonstrated in research and in practice that teens who participate in service learning experiences with their parents are far more likely to continue to serve others as adults than teens who serve in age-specific programs.

A primary goal of any service learning program for teenagers is to help them establish discipleship habits of service that will last a lifetime. Teen-only service learning programs are missing the most powerful ingredient that will help them achieve that top goal: parents!

Service experiences for Gen X parents and their kids don’t have to be full-blown complicated programs. You can facilitate, promote, and encourage a wide variety of simple family and intergenerational service and service learning experiences that are both gathered programs and experiences that happen away from your campus. When something needs to be done around your church, contact a handful of families to get the job done.

It could be tending gardens, preparing a mailing, switching out prayer aids in the worship space, cleaning, etc. All of these simple experiences of service have long-lasting positive impacts on the lives of families.

You can also promote neighborhood service among your members. Remind parents that it is important for them to demonstrate caring service to people in need who live right under their noses.

Every neighborhood has someone who needs a little help. It might be a young family with a newborn, or a neighbor struggling with an illness, or an elderly neighbor who can’t keep up with the house or property.

Promote the idea through preaching, teaching and advertising that your families are the families in the community that look out for the needs of others in every neighborhood. Encourage your families to serve others to the extent that it will make others wonder where they get this passion for service. It’s a great way to evangelize because sooner or later, someone will ask why your families are different in a good way from families who are not connected to your faith community. All Christians should raise that kind of curiosity.

Your Gen X families are ripe for this kind of community-changing activity. It gives them the time together that they need, it gives them the sense of accomplishment and purpose that they crave, it gives people in need the help they deserve, and it gives your church a good name in the community.

Family worship

Family prayer, worship and discussion groups are a great way to build family faith. Keep families together when they are offering ministry hours at the church.

As much as possible, don’t make family members come to the church for programming at different times, with teens coming at one time and younger children coming at another time. Family togetherness is a strong and positive value of this generation, a generation that feels they were unjustly starved of it when they were children.

Gen X parents will appreciate it if you invite their children to participate in church worship and prayer ministries with them. Whole families can serve as ushers. Whole families can sing in the choir. Whole families can assist in a variety of worship leadership roles.

This post by Jim Merhaut is part of a series inspired by the Seasons of Adult Faith Formation book, symposium, and issue of Lifelong Faith Journal. You can read the whole issue here.

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