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Discussions: Preteens in Rotation, Intergenerational Rotation, and Spiritual Development

Sheila B., Exchange Gardener
[This message was edited by Exchange Gardener on October 01, 2003] Moderator modified title of this post.

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Last edited by Luanne Payne
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Pre-teens (6th and 7th grade)

We have found that this age group (6th and 7th grade) is at a developmental stage where they do not want to be associated with the little kids. Anything that is good for first graders CANNOT be good for them. It doesn't matter how interesting your activity is, if the little kids are also doing it, you will get eyes rolling, yawns and less than enthusiastic behavior.

This age group has special needs. They need us to acknowledge their 'maturity'. We have addressed this need by developing a SS program especially for them. Not every church can do this, but the message is to make significant adjustments that show you recognize their different status.

I really recommend this resource for those serious about preteen ministry:

"Dynamic Preteen Ministry: The Essential Guide to Build a No-Miss Ministry with Kids" by Gordon and Becki West, Group Publishing, 9780764420849. (Out of print - try on-line)

Exchange Volunteer adds this link to the curriculum developed by Catherine's church for this age group:

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Preteens (leaders)  with younger children

What about giving the older ones more responsibilities ie. leading songs, taking attendance, collecting offering, etc. When they are together gear things to the older ones - the little ones don't mind at all. But if the older ones have to sing "little kiddie" songs like Zacchaeus, then I can see why they wouldn't like it.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Preteens - helping first graders

The first year of using the rotation, we experienced the same problems with our then fifth and sixth graders.

Now that we are in our fourth year, that attitude has disappeared.

I often combine sixth graders with first grade if I think a workshop will be particularly challenging for the younger children. The sixth grade is then given the added responsibility of working with their younger classmates. We also use the older children to assist with opening exercises. They respond well when they feel they are needed and have a position where younger children can depend on them.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Preteens - Encouraging acceptance and helping each other

Can you work at developing more of a family attitude among the children. We have 40 or 50 children in the k-6th age group and I speak to them all at the beginning of the year about accepting and helping each other. It may take more than a one time mention but ours really enjoy each other and in fact sometimes ask if they have to split up for the rotations.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

This is sort of a repost. As the Exchange Gardener I accidentally deleted about 5 posts that I had intended to move here. One of them was mine and I will try also to remember some of the tips from others though I don't remember who the authors were.

How to adapt for a different age group:

Movies: Show different movies, animated for younger children and live action for older children, you can also use movies that tie to the theme but are not a recreation of the story and compare and contrast them, this is good for teens.

Art projects: For younger children have things pre-cut or partially assembled or use stencils etc., for older children let them have more of a free-flow attempt and personalize their art.

For drama: For younger children narrate and have them act it out, for older children let them write the script.

For cooking: For younger children, work in groups, for older children, let them follow the recipe on their own.

For music: For younger children, use a lot of actions and simple songs, for older children let them accompany them with instruments or drums.

Other suggestions that I remember from others:

Put in your teaching plans examples of how to rephrase wording to simplify or make more challenging.

Write to the middle group and then simplify or make more challenging.

That is all I can remember.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational (mixed ages)

We have done intergenerational Bible Schools before and they went fine. It has its good and bad points like everything else, but if it works in your set up, I think your idea of doing it for one rotation - not all the time - is great.

I would say that the biggest challenge and thing to keep in mind it not to teach only to the top or bottom ability level.

  • You have to have a variety of activities so you do not have students who are constantly bored because it is too easy or lost because it is too hard.
  • It can also help to plan activities where the children can work cooperatively with the older ones matched with a younger child to help.

We have always pulled out our preschool children into their own class and not tried to put them into the intergenerational groups. That is just too big an ability span.

Good Luck!

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational - One Month a Year (includes adults)

We are in the middle of our first month of Rotation and we are doing it as Intergenerational Sunday School. We have 5 Workshops open. Getting everything ready was a huge undertaking, but it is worth it!!! Everyone is seeing the program for the first time and "getting the idea". (We even had a Dad and one year old son in the Kitchen Workshop!!!) The only problem we had at all was a little confusion with nametags. We will have 5 people at the nametag table tomorrow!!! This is my second year at this church and we "always" do Intergenerational Sunday School in January. At first I thought of changing that when we started the new program, but when I thought about the possibilities-parents and children getting to experience the new Sunday School together and all adults seeing what we are asking when we have Workshop sign-ups. The parents will know what the kids are doing first-hand and we are hoping for their enthusiastic support!!!

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational Event (All) - Palm Sunday

We are planning an Intergenerational Event for Holy Week; A Walk Through Holy Week.

The children will prepare for this during the March rotation.

We haven't ironed out all the details yet, but hope to get some adults involved as well, then do the actual"walk" on Palm Sunday. This is a little different than the other IG Events our church has had as the kids will be directly involved.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational Summer Rotations with Families

Our kids only have an 8 week summer this year (long, sad story) and 7 of those weeks we've decided to do intergenerational rotation.

Our plan is to have parents come with their kids each week for the first 3 weeks as a Bible "dig" (learning about the Bible), then everyone together the following 4 weeks: a music week, a video week, baptism week, and communion week.

My question is: How would you split everyone up in the first 3 weeks ... we want families to stay together, not be split up if they have kids in 2 different age groups. Do we just let them go to whichever workshop they want (which would be art, storytelling & games) and then the following 2 weeks they'd go to another workshop and it would all even out?

Also ... any tips anyone can give if you've done intergenerational? My thought is that we'd teach at the kids' level and have things that the parents would have to do with their kids, not just hang back and watch.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational Rotation Roundup - last Sunday

We are doing an intergenerational Rotation Roundup for our last Sunday of Sunday School. We switch from 2 to 1 service so there is no Sunday School in the summer, we don't even have enough children in the summer to do VBS.

For our Rotation Roundup each room will have a workshop from one of the bible stories we have done this year. No bible story will be duplicated and the activity will be short so all 5 rooms can be visited in an hour if they desire and we will probably stay longer that Sunday. Downstairs we will run a picture show for those parishioners who can't or don't want to travel upstairs.


Last edited by Luanne Payne

International "Family Light" on Parable of Talents

After our CE meeting and discussing the need for more people in our church to have the opportunity to discover (and use!) their spiritual gifts, God put on my heart to scrap my idea for an intergenerational "Bible dig" for this summer (see my post above) ... and is leading us to teach the parable of the talents instead!

Our WRM is called "The LIGHT" so this will be called "Family LIGHT". We'll have 3 weeks/3 workshops (of which I'm gleaning many ideas from YOU at this site for this parable -- and if anyone has additional ideas, please pass them on!), then 1 Sunday where we'll watch a video they've made in drama. Then we'll move on to 2 additional weeks - one with music and one with baking communion bread.

I'm starting now to publicize it and will say that "because the lessons will be family oriented, it's important that kids attend with at least one adult family member". I want to make sure they know it will be family projects and not just parents sitting back watching while the kids do activities.

Those of you who have done intergenerational rotations, please keep posting your thoughts/ideas/do's/don'ts. Thanks!

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational on Baptism

We generally have traditional Sunday School. Last year we had Intergenerational Rotational Sunday School for 4 weeks. Our topic was Jesus' Baptism / our Baptisms.

It was extremely well received, especially from the older generation. Some wonderful cross-generational connections were made. We plan to do it again this year.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational by "Faith Inkubators"

.... a cutting edge ministry associated with the ELCA has been plowing the "Family Sunday School" ground for many years. Previously called "Total Family Sunday School" ..they now call it "Generations in Sunday School Together." I have been told that they have adopted many Rotation ideas in a recent overhaul of some of their approaches (they have several).

Bible Song Cross+Gen - Gathering Generations Together. Blending Worship and Education. Connecting Church and Home.

Faith Inkubator's Five Models

They also have a radical vision for Confirmation programs that began with an article titled "Conform-ation is Dead." Edgy stuff.

<>< Neil

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational Class Yearly

We've been having an Intergenerational Sunday School class for many years, even predating our WoRM Sunday School. In some ways the rotation format made it harder to have the class, because it was harder to fit into the rotation's physical scheduling.

All our Sunday School classes, adult and children, come to the Intergenerational class.

  • Usually in the past, we would do a great craft together or watch a puppet show together.
  • When we started the WoRM, we used two Sundays to rotate all the adults and children through 4 abbreviated workshops (2 per Sunday) on the Ten Commandments.
    The adults who attended got a better idea of how WoRM worked.
  • This year we celebrated a Seder meal together.
  • Last year we prepared some Bible Foods together and sat down to a Feast.

Everyone who came enjoyed them, and learned something new. The trick is to get everyone to come. Some classes decided not to attend. (We've been without a permanent pastor at the helm for almost two we've lost a lot of people.)

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational - making all feel included tip

Just a word of caution. When we do intergenerational sunday school it's important that we don't leave anyone out. (Ex: single with no children and children who's parent can't make it for some reason (ex: work). These groups could be paired together so that they feel more like a part of the group.

Last year I was teamed up with a 2nd grader who mom and dad sang in the choir. It was fun and we get to know the different ages and generations in our own churches.

Blest be the Tie the binds us. Smile

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Preteen Rotation stories that teach

- your opening can make all the difference! 

Posted by enny on February 25, 2004

A couple weeks ago the storyteller was ill and called me on Saturday to teach for him on Sunday. For some reason I thought he said it was for the 1st and 2nd grade. The lesson was the Battle of Jerico. So I got a bunch of "duplo legos" and took them in Sunday morning to build a model of the walls and there was the 5th & 6th graders! After they saw the shock on my face I told them the truth, that I thought they were going to be six and seven years old. So, I went ahead with the same plans and they LOVED duplo legos. We had a great time. They were very understanding. I love 5th and 6th graders!!

Posted by Lisa M. February 28, 2004

That's a great story and it's a great lesson for all of us to learn. Older kids and youth will participate in an occasional activity for younger children if you admit ahead of time that it is really for younger kids. We just showed a Veggie Tales movie to our youth group. If we had just shown the movie, we would have gotten groans, but we told them what we were doing and set up the lesson so that they were reading the scripture and critically analyzing the movie's portrayal of the story. They loved it! The same is true for software on computers.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Spiritual Development


Alicia posted March 04, 2004

I need information on age appropriate goals for our classes. For example: when a child reaches 2nd grade, they should know the Lord's Prayer, who the disciples were, etc. Does anyone know of any resources that would help me? I am from a Lutheran church.
Thanks for the help


Leslee Kirkconnell  posted March 05, 2004

You might start by looking at commercial curriculum-what are they expecting at various ages. Frequently this information will be in the teacher book, but sometimes also in a separate publication. Living the Good News from the Episcopal Church had an excellent poster that depicted it in an upward spiral. That was a number of years ago, so I don't know if it's still available.

Peachtree Presbyterian Church (Atlanta) published in 1994 a book called Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith for Children, Youth and Adults. It was the result of their desire to be able to 'benchmark' what was taught and expected at each age.   Update 2017: Here is an article about this book, the 3rd last paragraph has ordering contact info.

Also Educational Ministries.Inc published a book called, Age Group Characteristics  by Anne Gilbert that should also be of help. Good luck! 

Gerald Bailey posted March 08, 2004

Westminster Presbyterian, Dayton OH, has developed its own set of "learning guidelines" which outlines what we want our children, youth and adults to be exposed to in various levels of their Christian education.

JanS  posted March 09, 2004

Here at House of Hope Presbyterian we do two different programs that might be helpful to you.
One is called MIlestones and involves the parents/significant adult. Each age/grade participates in the following:
age 4-presentation of story Bibles
K; Learn the Lord's Prayer
gr. 1 Communion instruction
gr. 2 Prayer/family devotions
gr. 3 Bible presentation
gr. 4 stewardship/service
gr. 5 worship

In addition, each class presents something at the Spring program called Expressions of Faith.
ages 3 and 4: Sing Jesus Loves Me
K: Doxology
gr. 1 Gal. 5:22
gr. 2 10 Commandments
gr. 3 Books of the NT
gr. 4 Books of the OT
gr. 5 Apostles Creed

Also, I would recommend that determining your grade level goals along with the person(s) who teach Confirmation. What do they want the young people to come into the program knowing?

Jan Snell

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Intergenerational Ministry Resources


Our "Returning to Sunday school" survey (Feb 2021) shows that about 60% of the respondents would like "Creative lessons for more broadly-graded groups." I have collected some resources to help churches think about and plan for Sunday school or other programs for intergenerational groups.

Intergenerational ministry is more than having parents attend Sunday school with their children. It is intentional activities and interactions between people of different ages and stages of life - preschoolers, grandparents, unmarried people, teens, college students, young professionals, empty nesters, .....

Here is a great article from Building Faith about how to be more intentional about intergenerational programming in your church: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: Practical Steps to Increasing Intergenerationality. The author includes suggestions for building a team that will work with committees in the church to encourage them to think about the whole congregation for some of their programming. Plus here is a handout from First Presbyterian in Stillwater, OK, that summarizes what intergenerational ministry is and has suggestions to help the team brainstorm with committees. (PDF also attached here  in case the link goes dead.)

Here is a resource from GenOn to help you evaluate where your church is currently: Intergenerational Ministry Snapshot.

CRC has lots of good suggestions to help cultivate a culture in which faith in God is nurtured and relationships are fostered as all ages learn and grow, serve, and worship together on their intergenerational toolkit page; look in particular at the "Learning and Growing" section: "information and ideas for building on what your congregation is already doing to provide opportunities for people of all ages to “know and be known” by each other, both in small group gatherings and large group settings." There are articles linked that talk about how to adapt your current curriculum intergenerational groups.

Don't miss the conversation here at about a Faith Mentor Workshop. The primary goal of the "Faith Mentor Workshop" is to get the parents/mentors talking with their kids. The lesson activities should be designed to support that emphasis. This is not a "sit with your child and listen to the teacher" workshop.

And remember, the Rotation Model is more suited to the needs of broadly graded Sunday School. See more here.

NOTE: many of the ideas linked are more for really big churches that have things like a young singles Sunday school class and a women's class of people who have been members since the church was founded, etc., who never really interact. A small church may already be intergenerational by default/necessity (it certainly is multi-generational).


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Last edited by Amy Crane

Great ideas!  We are looking at having the first Sunday of the month be an intergenerational service project Sunday.  This will achieve many goals.  It will be an act of service.  It will facilitate people of all ages connecting with each other and building relationships and fellowship as we return to in-person ministry.  It will ease the anxiety level of children, who are anxious about church because they haven't been at church in a year and half because they can participate with their families.   This will be a nice entry point on so many levels.

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