Bridges at Home

Bridges provides an intentional community connection for high school students, college students, and adults of all ages to build intergenerational relationships through meaningful conversations around relevant topics.

Welcome to Bridges at Home!

Have you ever noticed a disconnect between the generations of people in your parish? Have you ever been unsure of how to approach someone in a different age demographic at coffee hour? Would you be alarmed if you were asked to speak to your parish teen group? And, deeper than that: do you know the struggles and joys of someone in their teens? Their 30s? Their 70s? The YES Bridges online Series started as a YES Internship Experience project by Eleni Lewis in 2022 to meet this very need! Through the YES Program, we have been able to bring together over (x) amount of people over the last 2 years to purposefully dig into intergenerational connections and relationships. In the YES Bridges online Series, we used an online platform to bring together a large range of teens, young, middle-aged and older adults to listen to a speaker’s reflection on a particular topic, such as “Bringing Everyone to the Table” and “Coffee Hour 101.” Afterwards, participants had powerful group discussions, and even got individually paired up with a person of a different generation as a “Bridge Buddy” to connect and spend time together. Some Bridge Buddies still keep in contact to this day from across the country. Bridges was so successful that we’ve continued it and made it available for any parishes to participate in their own community!   

Bridges is meant to inspire and encourage community, and is meant to help us grow in our understanding of ourselves and others. This is not a “program” for you to do by yourself. You could certainly watch the video library alone, but would be missing an essential component. We encourage you to use Bridges to help “bridge” communication between you and at least one other person. Bridges could be used parish-wide or with small groups in a parish. Bridges would work best with in-person connection, but was started virtually and can easily adapt to either format. 

Getting Started

After getting the blessing of your parish priest, think about how you could best organize Bridges for your parish. Here are some things to consider:

  • Who are you hoping to bring together? Are you going to open this up to your whole parish? Are you going to invite a couple specific groups of people to start with? Maybe the girls in your teen group and your women’s group? 
  • Where will you spend your time together? The church seems like the natural option, but within that think of where best you could hold this gathering? Depending on how many people you have, maybe a cozier space within your church might work well. Or perhaps if you have a lot of people you could start in the hall together and then divide into break-out groups into smaller classrooms. Think of spaces that will be conducive to larger group and smaller group discussions. If you have a smaller group, consider asking one of the participants to open up their home to bring people together to connect.
  • When will you invite people to come together? We have found that Bridges works well with a short-term commitment, but longer than one week. We have found that three weekly sessions back-to-back works well, but there might be different timing that works better for your parish. You will also want to consider if a weeknight evening might get the best attendance, or if you connect it with something already happening at your parish, say following Great Vespers on Saturday nights. Ideally you will have all the people who sign up to come for each session, so aim to choose a day/time that would work for many people. Because you will want to divide people into groups over the course of the time together, it is helpful to have people sign up in advance.

Planning Bridges for Your Parish

Once you’ve sorted some of the practical ideas above, it’s time to think about what you’re going to share, how you’re going to share it, and the way you’re going to organize your people!

1. Setting the Tone

It’s important to start off setting the tone to invite connection and encourage openness. To that end, we have a video from YES Director, Katrina Bitar, that we recommend showing at the start of your Bridges session. In her video she gives some key ideas and thoughts to encourage meaningful and loving dialogue. If you would prefer to limit technology, you could also read her script aloud yourself.

2. What to Share

As for content, each evening includes a short presentation–usually about 15-20 minutes–on a specific topic. Choosing a topic that is relevant across generations is important. We have a library of pre-recorded videos from past Bridges events that you could choose from. If you’d prefer to have your priest or someone he recommends from your parish speak, some topic ideas include:

  • Listening to Learn
  • Working through Conflict
  • Finding your Identity in Christ
  • Acquiring a Spirit of Peace
  • Engaging with the World as a Christian
  • Building Healthy Habits
  • Living Liturgically

Video Library

  • Coffee Hour 101: How to make intergenerational connections in a large crowd
  • Listening to Learn
  • Navigating Conflict
  • The Path to Building Healthy Habits
  • The Practices of Liturgy Beyond the Church Walls
  • The Pursuit of Forgiving Yourself

3. How to Share

After you watch the video or listen to your in-person speaker’s message, it’s time to split into small groups! Ideally each group would be about 4-6 people, and they would be divided according to age. You will want to have one small group leader for each group–this person should be comfortable guiding a group discussion; perhaps clergy members, youth leaders, or other leaders within your parish. (Refer to Appendix 1 to view a document that helps prepare leaders for guiding discussion). 

If you use our video library, each video has a list of discussion questions for small groups. If you have your own parish speaker, ask them ahead of time to share a short list of discussion questions. Spend about 20-30 minutes in small groups discussing the topic together.

Following the small group discussion, come back together as a large group and briefly share some general themes you discussed (nothing specific/personal). Each small group leader could share the ages of their group and some notes. You (or whoever is leading Bridges for your parish) should encourage and note any connections/similarities from groups.

4. Bridges

At the end of this large group, close with prayer, and then pair people with their buddies! Ideally people will be paired with one other buddy in a very different age demographic, but with some sort of similarity to connect them. So, you’re not necessarily trying to get the MOST different buddy scenario, but rather letting age be the biggest difference, and then having some similar connections: gender, interests, church involvement, etc. Encourage buddies to spend some time connecting this evening (attached are a list of conversation starters for buddies), and any other time they may choose. They could get together during the week at a coffee shop, or make plans to sit together at coffee hour on Sunday, or chat on the phone–whatever works for them! The goal is that they would work on forming a new relationship with one person in a different age demographic!

5. Buddies

At the end of this large group, close with prayer, and then pair people with their buddies! Ideally, people will be paired with one other buddy in a very different age demographic but with some sort of similarity to connect them. So, you’re not necessarily trying to get the MOST different buddy scenario, but rather letting age be the biggest difference and then having some similar connections: gender, interests, church involvement, etc. Encourage buddies to spend some time connecting this evening (refer to Appendix How to Get Started with Buddies), and any other time they may choose. They could get together during the week at a coffee shop, make plans to sit together at coffee hour on Sunday, or chat on the phone–whatever works for them! The goal is that they would work on forming a new relationship with one person in a different age demographic.

After Bridges

Once you’ve completed a 3-week series of Bridges (or whatever time frame you’ve chosen for your parish) you will hopefully notice new relationships and stronger connections between parishioners. This is a beautiful thing for the life of your parish and the Church as a whole! You might be wondering: what next?

Hopefully these relationships will continue to flourish on their own, and perhaps even snowball into more relationships or ideas within your parish! We love to see how each individual and each parish has so much creativity and ability to grow and serve in their own communities. If you are in need of more ideas for where your parish could go next:

Host another Bridges series: mix it up by choosing different speakers or topics, or invite another parish to join

Have a Buddy Meet-up: get the buddies back together for informal food/chats

Start a serving ministry in your parish

Host a ReachOut Day with YES

Participate in FOCUS Local Initiative

Host a coffee hour bingo 

Host a Giving Trivia night