2018 Cross+Gen Life Conference Case Studies

One unique aspect of the Cross+Gen Life Conference is your opportunity to hear Case Study presentations from the “Let’s Kill Sunday School (before it kills the church)” books. Listen to their visions and struggles. Ask how they built their teams, set their course, navigated through rough waters and weathered the storms along the way. Discover the beauty, depth and wonder of what they have learned that has confirmed their call to this systems change.


An Introvert, an Extrovert, and the Art of Boiling Frogs

Reclaiming the importance of our family-by-faith in subtle but powerful ways

Jen Kempter Kooistra & Sons
St. John, Oregon, WI
Members: 1269
AWWA (Average Weekly Worship Attendance): 243

SYNOPSIS: Churches aren’t always the most forgiving places when you start messing with the ways things have always been done, even when it is apparent things need to change. So, how do you develop a new mindset and craft a new paradigm without threatening the established, generous, older and wiser members who are the safe-holders of the stories you know need to be shared? You do it the same way you boil frogs: start with what’s comfortable and slowly change the temperature (aka turn up the heat!). As the mother of a shy introvert and an outgoing extrovert, Jen developed a knack for accomplishing goals without noticeable discomfort. Join Jen and her teenage boys, Arthur and Theo, as they share what they’ve learned and experienced as they’ve watched FAITH5 and Cross+Gen ministries evolve their family-by-faith into authentic Cross+Gen relationships, education, worship, and living.


New Life by the Power of the Spirit  

Congregational Redevelopment with Cross+Gen at the Core  

Rev. Rob Nelson
New Heights, Black Earth, WI
Members: 480
AWWA: 205

SYNOPSIS: What was once a dying, small town, 2-point parish just trying to keep its doors open, has become a growing and thriving congregation where all ages are welcome, engaged and hopeful about the future. This transformation began with a move away from the traditional Sunday morning Sunday School approach, toward a model which gave parents and grandparents the tools and confidence to share faith at home. As the congregation has grown in these faith practices, the power of the Holy Spirit has brought new life, deepened faith and this is now a congregation known for their love.


Making Cross+Gen Big and New in the Little Old Church

The story of young and old evolving faith in an historic church

Rev. Erika Wesch
Little Zion Parish, Telford, PA
Members: 400
AWWA: 150

SYNOPSIS: While Little Zion’s history goes back to 1730, this old congregation is open to the new work of the Holy Spirit. When devoted, talented Sunday School teachers found themselves ready to be “done,” the time was right for Little Zion to begin a Cross+Gen learning hour. Instead of a handful of kids in a class, today dozens of people from all ages and stages are learning, creating, loving and practicing pastoral care together every Sunday morning. This IS Cross+Gen Life.


Warming to Cross+Gen: FAITH5 Fires

How simple summer gatherings tend the heart of the congregation across the generations

Rev. Brian Derrer & Robin Patras
Christ the Savior, Fishers, IN
Members: 1100
AWWA: 400

SYNOPSIS: Everybody loves a campfire. If you build it, will they come? Using a simple format that welcomed and included all, Brian and Robin wove together the allure of a summer campfire and roasting s'mores, the joy of playing outside together, and the simple but powerful ritual of FAITH5 into weekly summer gatherings for all ages, stages and abilities. FAITH5 Fires became a non-threatening entry point through which to invite all kinds of folks to move deeper into relationship with God and one another. What began around the fire warmed the heart of a congregation!


Beating a Dead Horse

Resurrecting the foundations of the church through Cross+Gen Ministry

Rev. Chris Deines
St. Pauls, Nevada, MO
Members: 280
AWWA: 48

SYNOPSIS: When hands were thrown up trying to figure out how we “do” education, we cancelled “doing” and started living out ministry with a Cross+Gen approach. From council meetings to pastoral care we began with FAITH5 to build relationships across the church. The people of this farming community are also coming together weekly for GIFT (Growing in Faith Together) with food, fellowship and faith. Where once folks were asking, “Are we just beating a dead horse?”, through Cross+Gen ministry the Holy Spirit is moving, shaking, galloping, and making all things new in this mission-focused congregation. The young and seasoned children of God are growing in faith together!


What’s Working? Start There!

Change may mean intentionally tweaking what you’re already doing

Emily Dalen
St. Pauls, Omaha, NE
Members: 1200
AWWA: 375

SYNOPSIS: When Emily started working at St. Paul’s two-and-a-half years ago, the church was already thinking Cross+Gen. In fact, it was already in their Mission Statement. But programs for kids were well received and a complete overhaul of the system was out of the question. So instead of a revolution, Emily began an evolution. Her team took a look at existing ministry and started to make small shifts toward Cross+Gen. She added Cross+Gen learning during Advent and Lent, and introduced FAITH5 in worship. Emily also began inviting people of all ages to lead worship. Every ministry in the church has been challenged to consider how they might bring all ages together to learn from each other and grow closer to Christ. Because of these small shifts in approach, Cross+Gen is becoming the culture.


Building a Cross+Gen Movement Across a Synod

Reimagining Church for the 21st Century World

Rev. Bradley Burke, Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership & Discipleship
Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA - Philadelphia, PA
Members: In a synod of 151 congregations, we partnered with 15 to create a cohort group to collaboratively experiment in launching a Cross+Gen movement and to be a catalyst for change in our synod.

SYNOPSIS: In the Northeast United States, many of the 21st century cultural shifts in faith, values, and people’s relationship with the institutional church are moving very quickly. With a few notable exceptions, worship attendance is down, traditional Sunday School programs are becoming unsustainable, and faith formation with young people is often not leading to a vibrant lifelong faith in Jesus Christ. To help congregations wrestle with these changing realities, and begin reimagining church for the 21st century, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod has embarked upon a journey with its congregations to transform the way they approach ministry at the most fundamental level. Starting with a few brave pioneers, this band of leaders is working hard to learn from each other’s triumphs and failures, so they don’t all have to make the same mistakes. In this brave new world of ministry, old ways of being church just aren’t working – so a Cross+Gen movement has been ignited that is bringing new life and changing the very way we see our mission and our faith.


Grandpas, Granddaughters, and Mentoring Men with Cross+Gen

Natural Ways to Build Up the Body

Rev. Dana Hanson
LifeHouse LA, Northridge, CA
Members: 222
AWWA: 128

SYNOPSIS: Pastor Dana thinks he has the best gig in town. Every Friday he gets to live the Cross+Gen life with two delightful granddaughters coming over to the house. It has enriched his life and theirs immeasurably. Dana said he also has the second best gig. Every week he invests time with his adult twin sons and a group of men spanning the ages. It started with Dana wanting “the boys” to have an enriching experience with healthy male role models. It grew into an intentional and intensely rewarding community for young and old that any church can implement in a short time.


Infecting a National Church with FAITH5 and Cross+Gen

The beginnings of FAITH5 for churchwide growth and energy

Rev. Ivars Jekabsons
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia: Sunday School Department Team Leader
Members: 42,000 members
AWWA: 5,000 in approx. 300 parishes

SYNOPSIS: Rev. Ivars Jekabsons, his wife Marta, and a team of church and lay leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia are working to bring FAITH5 and Cross+Gen faith formation to their entire church body. The team began in early 2018 with a target of 100 families across the country doing six-week pilot projects. Ivars and Marta see FAITH5 as a gift to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, in time for Latvia’s 100-year centenary celebration in November, working to bring children to church and Christ, and to bring Christ back into everyday family life. 


Big Ship, Slow Turn

Drawing Leadership from the Heads, Hearts and Hands of the Lay People

Rev. Eric Anspach-Hanson
Sammamish Hills, Sammamish, WA
Members: 807
AWWA: 200

SYNOPSIS: Confirmation Sunday was the most exciting and excruciatingly painful Sunday of the year. Students made vows to “live among God’s faithful people, hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, etc . . .”  But the congregation was aware of a sad truth – we wouldn’t see half of those young people again until Christmas. We were supposed to be sending them out into the world as disciples. Instead we were just sending them . . . out. To where? Who knows? They weren’t coming back to tell us.   

Church leadership started a conversation. Would they continue silo-ing families and generations in classes as they grow in faith and grow out of church when the classes are done? Or, would they bring families and generations together in worship, learning, and relationship every Sunday at church and every night in every home so that maybe, just maybe, life with Jesus wouldn’t be a class from which they graduate, but a relationship into which they grow.


KidStreet PlayCenter: Bringing the World to the Church, and the Church to the World

Unexpected and Unusual Surprises When Cross+Gen Ministry is Planted at a Rented Strip Mall

Linda Bailey, Missionary at KidStreet PlayCenter
Trinity - Lisle, IL
Church Members: 2512
AWWA: 900 (at four sites)
Number of Children who come to play each week: 650

SYNOPSIS: Churches often have dreams that are oh, so small. This is what Trinity in Lisle, Illinois realized within a few short weeks after opening our second worship location in the fall of 2010. Trinity's "big" dream to have a site for contemporary worship that just happens to have a café and play structure, quickly became a community Café and PlayCenter that just happens to have worship on the weekends!

Eight years in, Trinity's KidStreet PlayCenter welcomes hundreds of children, along with their caregivers, each week to come in for SAFE + CLEAN + FRIENDLY = FUN. This is a beautiful and holy expression of Cross+Gen, Cross+Cultural, Cross+Lingual, Cross+Familial life. We are weaving FAITH5 into the fabric of the KidStreet PlayCenter community as an intentional bonding and linking agent for people of all ages.

Trinity is discovering how to be the church to all who come and play during the week. Or perhaps, those who come to play are showing Trinity what it means to be an "as we go" faith community. Either way, God is up to something surprising and incredible here!