Home Children's Ministry Leaders The Rule of 3: An Intergenerational Lens for Ministry

The Rule of 3: An Intergenerational Lens for Ministry

rule of three

“You just can’t include kids in everything. Some things aren’t even appropriate for kids!”

“There’s a lot of activity and movement. I’m not sure the older folks will really be able to participate in that.”

“Unfortunately, the only time we can hold this event in the evenings and that just doesn’t always work for young families.”

These sentiments and others like them are what often get shared when a church or community begins to think about the logistics of intergenerational ministry. There’s an immediate assumption that if every generation in the church isn’t represented, then it doesn’t meet intergenerational muster.

By and large, western Protestant churches fall into age-segregated rhythms. The curriculum, programming, and even the design of the building tend towards keeping people in fairly homogeneous groups with others who look like them, have the same life experiences as them, and are roughly the same age as them.

In my opinion, any opportunity we have to broaden the scope of who we are interacting with and building relationships with in our faith community is a step in the right direction. To help churches who have succumbed to the all-or-nothing approach into integrating ages, I often use the “Rule of Three.”

Simply put, the Rule of Three ensures that at least three generations are present in any given situation. The Rule of Three is a lens that we can apply to our community activities to ensure we are expanding our reach and opportunity for connection, relationship, and discipleship beyond our regular age limitations.

Why three?  Well, quite simply, the presence of three generations fulfills an important factor in intergenerational community. When three generations are present, the opportunity for passing on faith and learning from one another exists in a way that doesn’t when only one generation is present. With three generations, you have three perspectives; one representing the Past, one representing the Present, and one representing the Future.

But that doesn’t include everyone! How can that be intergenerational? 

One of the biggest missteps we take in intergenerational ministry is the all-or-nothing approach to everything – either every age is present all of the time or we are siloed and segregated all of the time. But in reality, we need both – developmentally and physically, different ages have different needs. However, at the same time, we need each other in order to be developmentally and physically healthy.

Being intentionally intergenerational recognizes these needs and strives to create an environment where multiple opportunities for learning, growing, and worshiping together exists. It is not a cookie cutter approach. There’s no “one way” to do it.