We’ve seen some pretty incredible growth and change in the American Church in the last 20 years. Not just growth in numbers, but also in diversity and variety when it comes to practices in the church, specifically in worship. Now more than ever, there are so many “flavors” of worship: Rock & Roll worship, RnB worship, Traditional worship, Blended worship, Folk worship, and the list goes on.
Besides Jesus & specific denominations, worship style is probably one of the more defining characteristics of a church in America. While this myriad of options is beautiful and helpful to communicate the Gospel in fresh & new ways, an unfortunate perception, or perhaps even a deception, has been cultivated in the Church: there should be different kinds of churches for different kinds of people.
Unfortunately, this division is most apparent in two key demographics: Age & Ethnicity.
While I’ll leave ethnicity for another post, the fact is that the worship style of a church can dictate the age demographic of a church. While this may not be a specific goal of any church, it is definitely a furtive result of inactivity of church leadership to address it.
No church is immune. You can pick your head up 3 years into a church plant or after 3 years at a 100-yr-old mainline church and notice that you’ve either marginalized or eliminated a complete age group from your church. This is not how the church is supposed to look, my friends.
When we get glimpses of the early church in Acts, there is no distinction made between young and old, between any generations. We’d be safe to assume that there were people of all ages not just worshiping together, but living life together, encouraging each other together, and ministering to each other.
I don’t know about you, but THAT is the kind of church I want to be a part of.
I doubt any of us would say otherwise, but still we choose to take the easy road of keeping preferences separate and not taking strides in facilitating intergenerational church. I’m also NOT encouraging anyone to provide a bland worship experience that offends no one yet appeals to no one either.
Simply put: I believe that you can be the exact church God has called you to be, musically, experientially, everything, but STILL take steps to worship intergenerationally.
But the question still stands:
How do we foster intergenerational worship in our churches today?
I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do have some experience humbly trying to find ways to take steps in my own church. Here are 4 simple ways you can encourage intergenerational worship in your church:
1. Watch the Stage
If your stage looks like different variations of the same person, then you might be doing it wrong. I’m not saying don’t allow too many of the same kind of person to lead, but rather to be conscious if you start to notice a unconscious bias.
I can’t tell you how much has been added to my team by having so many different kinds of people involved. And honestly, if you can’t identify with someone on stage every once in a while, you’ll have a hard time finding how you belong at the church.
2. Get Out of the Green Room
There is nothing wrong with having a place for the band to hang before/during services so they can be ready to get on stage, but these green rooms can become impediments in your attempt to encourage intergenerational worship. The best tool you have to encourage it is YOU! You having conversations & forming relationships with people before and after services in the lobby, in the main room, all over the place!
You will be SHOCKED at the results if you do this for a month. Here’s a story from my experience:
There was this guy at the first church I served at, lets call him Jim. I was 22, fresh out of college, and he was a 50-something who always sat in the back of the room, always keeping to himself and looking like he HATED everything I did. I would notice him almost every weekend because he was always early and always left right after.
One morning, after some really wise counseling from a friend of mine, I just went up to him and introduced myself and got to know him. No agenda, only a potential friendship in mind. Just taking the time, maybe 5 minutes, to ask him about himself caused him to completely drop his guard. We talked about how he grew up playing music but couldn’t anymore because of a condition. How he loves to just sit and take in all the music, the words, and silently respond to God through prayer because he hates his singing voice.
After that conversation, I would speak with Jim on a regular basis, checking in with him and learning more about him, he learning more about myself, and I was able to help him find a great small group that he’s still a part of today. Getting out of the green room and having these kinds of conversations with people who are both similar and dissimilar to us will only help to encourage intergenerational worship.
When our church becomes more familiar with us, even building friendships with us, we strengthen our ability to lead them in worship.
3. Buy In from the Top Down
Any kind of intentions MUST start with your lead/senior pastor. If they don’t value becoming more intergenerational in their worship, then it will never happen.
This isn’t a sermon they preach or a newsletter they send out to members, but rather it is a foundational philosophy of ministry. Intergenerational worship in your church begins and ends with your Pastor’s desire to cultivate it.
4. Gently Teach a New Perspective
Keyword here is gently.
This may be from stage during a moment of spiritual direction or maybe even could make for a great sermon series, but the goal is to lead your church well by painting a picture of what could be. What would it be like if we were a church where people of any age, any background could come and worship as they are?
The perspective we’re teaching isn’t specifically “young people, like older people; older people, like younger people,” but rather “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!” A gathering on a Sunday morning isn’t ultimately about satisfying our preferences, but rather coming together as the Church to worship Him. That’s it.
Our aim must be to help our church family become more aware of the right perspective of worship. Gently, yet honestly, it is our responsibility to help ourselves and our church have a right perspective of God and of our response to Him: worship.
We can do so much better when it comes to this.
I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some churches who have valued intergenerational worship, and I’ve witnessed the benefits and beauty of these moments together. Lets do our part to see a piece of Heaven on Earth, to see people of all ages worshiping together in our churches.