Here is one of my favorite stories of how God uses intergenerational prayer to strengthen his Church.*
Ed Albury was an older gentleman who had pledged to be a prayer champion for the fifth consecutive year at his church, this time for a twelve-year-old boy named Aden. One Sunday after Ed had spoken to Aden at church and asked him how he could be praying for him, Aden turned right around and asked, “Mr. Albury, how can I pray for you?” Ed shared with Aden that he was actually battling cancer, and he asked him to pray for healing.
Not too long after this interaction, Aden’s mom approached Ed on a Sunday morning and said that Aden would not let them get through prayers at dinner without praying for him and his cancer.
At the end of Ed’s radiation therapy, about 40 of his friends attended his Bell Ringing Ceremony to celebrate Ed’s completion of this treatment milestone. Aden had shown up with a bell too. When Ed saw Aden, he called him up to stand with him and shared with his friends how much Aden’s prayers for him had meant and how thankful he was for their relationship through the Pray for Me Campaign.
More than just a “Nice Story”!
I love this story, but as I share it with you, I believe it is vital that you know and embrace the broader significance of the story.
Here are two members of the Body of Christ that are separated by two generations, who most likely would not have had a reason to know each other outside of the Pray for Me Campaign. And yet, now their lives are forever intertwined in a way that has brought blessing to both. I believe these types of relationships reflect the beauty of what God has designed his Church to be for every generation.
But wait, there’s more!
The significance of the above story actually touches the heart of ministry to the next generation.
There is currently a massive number of young people who are abandoning their faith and leaving the Church. The Pinetops Foundation conducted a national study that reveals that if nothing changes in how we minister to the next generation, “Over 35 million young people who were raised in Christian homes could walk away from a life with Jesus by 2050.” Of course, the reasons for this exodus of young people from our churches and their faith is multifaceted, and yet, one of the primary factors is intergenerational disconnectedness in our churches.
This disconnectedness tends to sneak up on churches and young people.
Here is why young people leave the Church:
The young people in our churches are typically being served faithfully in our children’s and youth ministries by loving adults. And yet, when these young people graduate from high school, they become painfully aware of something that was a moot point up until that moment. They realize they are relationally disconnected from the overall church. Before they graduated, they were cared for by a hub of adult leaders in both the children’s and youth ministries which created a sense of family within those ministries. Unfortunately, all too often, that sense of family does not extend to the overall church. This relational disconnectedness tends to lead young people to experience the overall church as an institution rather than what it really is, the Family of God. This is a tragedy, because it is easy to leave an institution, but it is hard to leave a family.
There is Good News!
One of the primary factors for those young people who are staying connected to the Church and are flourishing in their faith is that they tend to be marked by having multiple adults investing in their lives. That is good news, because we can do something about this foundational aspect of faith development and resilience. That is why the Pray for Me Campaign exists.
The Pray for Me Campaign is a simple and yet powerful intergenerational ministry that is transforming how young people are experiencing the Church. It gives every young person in the church the intergenerational relationships they need to flourish in faith and life beginning with prayer. Life-giving intergenerational relationships like the one above with Mr. Albury and Aden are happening in churches all across the nation.
So far, the Pray for Me Campaign has helped over 700 churches and ministries in 43 states create over 150,000 intergenerational relationships.
Here is how intergenerational ministry works:
Students and families invite three adults from multiple generations to be their Prayer Champions for one year. Each year they invite three new prayer champions, giving every young person a growing multigenerational team of adults who are cheering them on in faith and life beginning with prayer. Prayer Champions are equipped to pray Scripture through 7 Essential Categories for the young person using the Pray for Me Prayer Guides.
Every Child in the Church is Someone’s Grandchild!
Our vision is that every grandchild would have an incredible team of adults who are cheering them on in faith and life as well as championing their cause before the throne of God. Perhaps the 30 million Christian grandparents in the United States can play a significant role in whether or not the emerging generations will trust and treasure Christ for a lifetime. What if the grandparents in every church, not only became Prayer Champions for their own grandchildren, but also became a catalyst for launching the Pray for Me Campaign in their church? This one action would mean that every grandchild in each of these churches would have the Christ-centered relationships they need and intergenerational disconnectedness would become a distant memory. These simple and yet profound efforts could impact generations to come.
May God grant his abundant mercy on this “Grand” endeavor!
*I share an adapted version of this story in the Grandparent Legacy Edition of the Pray for Me Prayer Guide.