My interest in intergenerationality grew from my family’s life-changing experiences in the 1990s with a faith community that met weekly in intergenerational small groups. Those years prompted me to change my career focus and to pursue a doctorate in Christian education which was driven by one burning question: What can explain the profound spiritual effects I observed and experienced in those intergenerational small groups? Since finishing my dissertation (Allen, 2002), I have followed the literature that tracks the growing interest in intergenerationality, which includes 46 doctoral dissertations on the topic and scores of articles as well as the books mentioned below. In general, it is the premise of those who promote intergenerational approaches in faith communities that cross-generational life together uniquely fosters spiritual formation in all age cohorts, and conversely, that perennially segregating the various generations is inherently diminishing.
During the last hundred years steady changes have occurred in society that have separated the families and segregated age groups, not only in educational settings, but in life in general. Faith communities are perhaps the only places where families, singles, couples, children, teens, grandparents—all generations—come together on a regular interacting basis. Yet, the societal trend toward age segregation has moved into churches also. Though church leaders endorse intergenerational approaches in theory, in practice American mainline and evangelical churches generally conduct many of their services and activities (worship, Sunday school, fellowship, outreach, service, etc.) in agesegregated settings. Consequently, in the second decade of twenty-first century America, all generations of the faith community—babies through octogenarians—are seldom together.