Date of Award


Document Type

Project Portfolio

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)



First Advisor

Kathleen Noling, DMin

Second Advisor

Deborah Loyd, DMin

Third Advisor

MaryKate Morse, PhD


For decades, American churches have been struggling with shrinking attendance, particularly among young people. An increasingly polarized society that elevates individualism and secularization, along with widespread escalating age segregation, has contributed to this trend. In response to these societal norms, many local churches have defaulted to a primarily age-segregated programming model. This model results in the absence of a sense of community and belonging, and a lack of Christian spiritual formation growth among both youth and adults within the church. This research revealed that creating regular opportunities for meaningful cross-generational interactions that combine shared experiences of play, creative expression, intentional conversations, story-sharing, spiritual practices, and food provides space for the growth of intergenerational friendships. These developing relationships offered an increased sense of belonging, of community within the congregation, as individuals expressed growing feelings of connection to others. Simultaneously, the participants reported heightened awareness of the presence of God during and after these interactions. The ministry context for this research project is a mid-size historic Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregation located in a coastal tourist community in the southeastern United States. This traditional church’s congregation is primarily white, highly educated professionals, upper middle to middle class, and composed of a mix of permanent and temporary residents and visitors. Although a considerable number of families engage in various aspects of the church’s programs, worship attendance is predominantly adults, and most programming is highly age specific, leaving the generations segregated. This project provides a detailed framework that guides local congregations through a mindset shift regarding ministry programming. The result is a model that intentionally creates space for regular cross-generational interactions which offer community-building encounters with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, youth and adults grow in Christian spiritual formation, increasing both individual and communal senses of belonging and connection to one another and to God.

Included in

Christianity Commons