In my last blog post, I wrote about churches that were modified in their approach to being intergenerational. Today I want to discuss those churches that are not intentional about being intergenerational, but are intergenerational churches. I call these churches organic intergenerational churches. Much can be learned about what intergenerational ministries and worship services not only have looked liked, but should look like in other church contexts.
In my research I found some interesting data about these organic intergenerational churches in Baptist churches in Georgia. I’m sure similarities would exist in other states.
- Many of these churches have average worship attendances of less than 250. Many of these naturally intergenerational churches are simply intergenerational because they probably have just one service, which is attended by all generations in the church. Generally, these churches interrelate more than other churches because these smaller churches function more like a family (often the church is several extended families anyway).
- Leaders of these churches are less educated/trained in the philosophy of intergenerational ministry/worship. Perhaps it’s because they don’t feel there is a need to know more about something they’re already doing, but leaders of these these intergenerational churches are 30% or more likely NOT to have learned anything about intergenerational ministry as opposed to their larger church leader counterparts.
- Organically intergenerational church leaders don’t believe their members understand the value of intergenerational ministry, whereas almost all of larger, intentional intergenerational church leaders believe their members do. Only 25% of leaders of smaller churches reported that they felt their choir members understood the value of having an intergenerational church while almost all of the leaders of the largest churches felt their choir members understood that value. As a microcosm of the church itself, my research dealt with the choirs and their leaders in intergenerational churches. What I found in the choir setting is most likely also apparent in the whole church.
- Do little to foster interaction between the members. Leaders of churches this size reported that interaction is organic and little has to be done (or is done) to keep interaction flowing between the generations. The question remains; is this because there is no need to foster interaction because it happens naturally or because of the lack of training, these leaders don’t have the tools they need to make intentional steps to foster generational interaction in their ministries? More answers should be explored here so that all church leaders learn practical ways to get generations interacting together in building the Kingdom. Here a few practical ways you can use to foster interactions among the generations in your church from my research:
*Fellowships (especially in smaller groups)
*Leader can teach the value of intergenerational ministry/worship
*Leader can strategically seat (if able) different generations together in small group settings to promote relationships among generations
*Having corporate times of prayer lead by different age leaders—even using small group prayer times where requests can be shared among those from different generations. I’m constantly amazed how “different” prayer requests are among the generations.
*Intentional mentor/mentee relationships where older and younger can learn from one another and the older can share wisdom and the younger energy (possibly!)
*Creating a family atmosphere.
5. Leaders of these churches report a family atmosphere is present in their church. It is very likely that the smaller church is not only made up of several extended families, but family groups that have, for generations, been like family to one another. This comment is not surprising and actually is very useful in understanding the appeal of having multiple generations in worship. In our church, like so many, we’ve grown from a small family-centric church into a much larger congregation of over 1000 members. Our total weekly worship attendance is in the mid-500s so we are no longer a small church. However, the number one comment we hear from visitors as they enter into our church is how friendly and family-like it feels here. This is very intentional. Additionally, we do not have a large cavernous worship space (although we need more space) so the services feel more intimate. The room was constructed for singing so it’s a great room for congregational singing as well as choral singing. There is an esprit de corps that permeates throughout the church that radiates a small church feel, even though we no longer are. I would guess many of my colleagues don’t have this similar type of worship space to facilitate a family, warm atmosphere, but there are many other things you can do to facilitate this family atmosphere. Here are a few to consider:
*Make a point to have families worship together. Don’t relegate the youth to a specific area in your worship space; have families sit together. If you have a children’s church, have the children sit with you until they dismiss (if they enter the worship space at all).
*Find ways to have families serve together in worship leadership. This could include greeters, scripture readers, music leadership, etc.
*Have families experience the Lord’s Supper together. For the confessed Christians in your family, there is nothing more powerful than family units remembering the sacrifice of Jesus and the cleansing of sin than worshiping through the Lord’s Supper together.
Churches of all sizes must find intentional ways to create a family atmosphere when multiple generations are present. For the larger church, it may be more difficult for persons to feel a part of the family until they get plugged into a small group Bible study or other ministry group where they may connect. For those churches, connection is the key. Find a way to get your new members and visitors connected so they feel a part of the family. This goes for all size churches, anyway. Connection is the key! Leaders of ALL churches should continue to seek training on how to integrate various ages into the ministries (worship included) of the church. It is important that leaders teach the biblical and philosophical importance of being intergenerational so that members understand the value of worshiping together and celebrate the age diversity within the body of Christ.