Excerpted from a reflection by Grace Duddy Pomroy, senior financial educator and content developer at Portico Benefit Services, co-owner of Embracing Stewardship, LLC, and member of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Board of Directors
When I graduated from college and went to seminary, I hoped to find a church with a contemporary worship style and more casual liturgy, bursting at the seams with young adults. The first Sunday that my friend and I went out church shopping we decided to visit a church representing quite the opposite of my wish list—a historic church with traditional liturgy and organ music and where the median age was about 70.
While the church was beautiful, I was prepared to dislike it and resume our search again the following week. However, as the service unfolded, my heart was softened. The organ music was beautiful, the worship space was unlike any I had ever seen, and the preaching was engaging; but what impressed me most was what came after worship—the fellowship. As my friend and I worked our way up the center aisle to greet the pastor (and get on our way to brunch), we were stopped countless times by church members who seemed genuinely curious to get to know us. What brought us here? What were we studying in graduate school? Where did we live? They saw us not as much-needed able-bodies (and additional financial support) to serve this small congregation but as people whom they could welcome into this tight-knit but ever-expanding community. I don’t think I have ever felt more welcomed in my life! Despite our protests, we were ushered into the fellowship hall for snacks, coffee, and more conversation.
Intergenerational stewardship begins with the belief that we all have something to give and we all have something to receive. Age doesn’t matter, and in many ways, neither does wealth. Just because I was in my early 20s, I wasn’t any more or less valuable than the 70-year-old women I would serve alongside. We all have something to learn from one another.
As a small congregation, we needed each other. There was a deep belief that everyone had something to give and something to receive, no matter their age, and that was something to be celebrated. Everyone was encouraged to participate. On Sunday morning, people of all ages would take part in every aspect of the service from singing in the choir to lighting the candles before worship. The attitude that all were welcome was held together by a pervasive sense of humor and a laid-back approach to high liturgy. Participation was more important than perfection. And with the Spirit’s help, as we each offered our gifts, we made it happen Sunday after Sunday.
A year later when I was invited to serve as stewardship chair, I wanted to keep this same generous, intergenerational spirit alive. I chose a stewardship committee that reflected where the church was and where it wanted to be. Each person was invited specifically for the gift they would share: a pastoral intern for teaching and preaching, a book editor for editing communications, and a long-time member of the church for thanking people. Our ragtag group spanned the age spectrum, but we each had gifts to bring. Whenever we met, there was a spirit of mutual respect, generosity, and learning that pervaded the space. Together, we led an annual stewardship response program and started a year-round stewardship emphasis.
When people think about intergenerational stewardship they often see it as a new initiative to bring to their congregation. But what I found in the congregations I’ve attended, and the many I’ve visited over the years, is that it’s already there. It’s present in the variety of ages involved in collecting the offering, serving their community on Saturday morning, and giving generously.
Take a look around: Where is intergenerational stewardship already present in your congregation? What can you learn? How might you name it as stewardship?
This reflection was originally featured in the new digital format of Giving magazine produced by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. Find stewardship resources for you and your congregation at www.stewardshipresources.org.