Why Intergenerational Studies?
*from the introduction of an intergenerational study by Truth78.
The term “intergenerational teaching” can conjure up all kinds of meanings-and all kinds of misunderstandings. Intergenerational teaching does not mean “dumbing down material so children can understand it, but the adults end up being bored.” It also does not mean “teaching a normal adult class with the hope that the children present may gain a tidbit of information.” Intergenerational teaching consciously takes into account the fact that there are learners of different ages and experiences, and it seeks to teach the hearts of all. Intergenerational teaching benefits both adults and children. It even provides opportunities for both generations to understand the material differently and benefit from a different perspective. It is a unique opportunity for the young to learn from the old, and for the old to learn from the young.
In our experience, it is easy to understand how the young can learn from the old, but sometimes only seasoned teachers of children can understand how the old can learn from the young. The “old” have maturity, rational thinking, and abstract understanding. The young have “black-and-white” thinking, intense emotions, an easy acceptance of truth, and freedom from conventional points of view. The blending of these strengths can enhance the learning experience for all involved.
But this will not happen if adults do not respect what children have to offer, or vice versa, which is often the case. It cannot happen if the teaching is so far above the children’s heads that they cannot understand what is being taught. It cannot happen if children are not given the opportunity to react to what is being taught and to share their questions and insight. Children often ask questions adults never think to ask. They also often see a different perspective of an issue or a truth. But if the contributions of the children are not respected, this cannot happen. This does not mean that children need to be catered to, but it does mean that they cannot be overlooked. They must be intentionally included.
The following are a few of the potential benefits of intergenerational learning for adults:
- Adults often think they understand something when in fact their “understanding” is merely familiarity with certain terms and concepts. When asked to explain what they have learned, they realize that they have little true understanding, inadequate understanding, or perhaps little support for the truth they attempt to espouse. Having to explain that truth to someone else (such as a child or an unbeliever) is an invaluable opportunity to measure understanding, or to dig for answers. You never know what you really know until you try to pass it on to someone else. Sometimes just the struggle of having to articulate your understanding of truth can refine your own understanding.
- Adults will often pass over the practical application of a truth unless challenged to think about what it means for their everyday lives. We are so much more comfortable with theory than with the reality of application. The reality of application is that we may need to change, surrender something, submit, or reevaluate priorities. Often adults have learned to gloss over the uncomfortable application of scripture. Children growing up in Christian homes learn to do the same. However, to inquisitive and literal young children, the truth and its application can be very blunt, obvious, and unavoidable. This is another wonderful way in which adults can be challenged by children’s faith.
- Adults often do not know how to talk about spiritual truths with children; it can be difficult for parents to engage their children in spiritual discussions. A forum where that is modeled, encourage, and mentored can be beneficial to adults.