Is Sticky Faith for all?
Can we find this in Scripture and, if so, what does the Bible have to say?
Beyond all else that we study about Sticky Faith development, this line of thought should undergird all it’s about, because a holistic approach is key to Sticky Faith.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gets talked about a lot within the realm of family ministry as a verse that exemplifies the work of discipleship done by parents within the home. BUT it’s important to note that these instructions to share about the commandments of the Lord weren’t given to solely to parents. In fact, when Moses shared these commands, he did so with the whole assembly of Israel, not just to the parents/caregivers that were present.
Deuteronomy 4:9 reads, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children” indicating there were multiple generations present when these commands were given. Now, with that in mind, consider that in one commentary, it’s pointed out that according to the Jewish people, “Teach them to thy children” meant “not only those of thy own body but all those that are anyway under thy care and tuition.” That means the charge to “impress upon your children” the commandments of the Lord extended beyond the home and into the larger faith community.
We call that “generational discipleship”!
And it’s not limited to this moment. Intergenerational community can be found throughout Scripture. Whenever the nation of Israel would gather for special occasions such as feasts or celebrations, the entire community, all generations, would be present. Like…
• Deuteronomy 29:10-12 when Moses spoke to Israel for the final time
• 2 Chronicles 20:13 when Jehosophat called for a fast of the entire nation
• Nehemiah 8: 2-3 and 12:43 when Ezra read aloud the book of the law and the entire community celebrated together. In the religion of Israel, all ages were not just included, they were drawn in, assimilated absorbed into the community with a deep sense of belonging… that’s Sticky Faith!
In the book of Psalms, there are references to the passing of faith from one generation to another. Like…
• Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
• Psalm 78 – The psalmist explains the importance of testifying about God’s works to the next generation so they would remain in the faith and not turn away a.k.a. generational discipleship.
In the New Testament, Jesus modeled this inclusion of all generations and specifically children throughout his ministry, going so far as to tell his followers that welcoming a child into their midst was akin to welcoming Him and the One who sent Him (Matthew 10:42, Matthew 11:25-26, Matthew 18:2-6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 19:13-14, Matthew 21:16, Mark 10:13-16 & Luke 9:46-48).
Paul writes to the churches and asks for the letters to be read aloud to the gathered community. In them, he specifically addresses a wide range of generations, including children (such as Eph 6:1-4, Col 3:20). It’s safe to assume he mentions all the generations because he expected them to be there to hear what he had to say.
So, yes, intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship are found in Scripture. And the idea of having all generations interacting within a community of faith isn’t a new one. That doesn’t mean we throw out everything we’ve learned from developmentalists or that doesn’t mean that age-appropriate ministry isn’t of any value.
What it does mean is that the normative faith practice is one where generations have the opportunity to be together and pass the faith to one another, so it would be a good idea for us to create spaces where that can happen… and that’s what Sticky Faith is all about!
I’m a firm believer that we can do both age-appropriate ministry and intergenerational ministry well in our church instead of either/or. Rather than pitting these two against each other, perhaps it’s time we consider how to embrace the new without rejecting the old.