Zach Yentzer provides a good contrast of multigenerational churches and intergenerational churches, which I believe is a good follow up to an earlier blog post I posted a few weeks ago.
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.
*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.
This question is asked of me all the time from my colleagues who serve churches who, because of a myriad of reasons, have multiple types of services in their church. These leaders sincerely believe their church fits the definition of intergenerational in every context, except the part where services should be mirrored in terms of content and style. These churches are not a “pure” form of intergenerational, but truly believe in the biblical concept that intergenerational behavior, interaction, and philosophy is important. These churches are what I refer to as modified intergenerational.
Here are some criteria that should exist if a church is to be considered a modified intergenerational church:
There are several more items that could be added to this list, but I wanted to bring out a few of the top ones. The point is, leadership can be intentionally intergenerational even though they have services that differ in content and style. I believe this; I really do. I don’t think there are many who are actually doing this, however. Ultimately the proof is in what is actually happening in the churches. Some of the churches that I would put into this category do some things to promote intergenerational behavior, but their service participants are far from generationally diverse. Ding, ding, ding–is that really intergenerational? Further, take a look at their Bible study classes and most of the time, the leadership only offers classes based on what the demographic of the surrounding services are. One could argue that they are just creating them based on need, but I would suggest, what about creating an intergenerational class or targeting a missing generational cohort from that Bible study hour? Additionally, if one of these churches has a choir, I’ve noticed almost all of the choir members are Builders or Boomers whereas, albeit not drastically higher (but higher!), purely intergenerational church choirs are more generationally diverse. Why are the modified intergenerational church choirs less generationally diverse? Because the young families are not coming to those services (traditional or blended, mostly) save a handful. I believe if utilized correctly, the choir has the greatest potential to mirror the generational diversity of the church. More on this later…
In my next blog, I will deal with the church that is a “pure” form of intergenerational, but not intentionally so. These churches are generally small, but make up such a large portion of our churches today. I will explore what can be done to help them celebrate and be more intentional about being intergenerational so that when faced with the temptation to add new services based on style, they recognize the value of worshiping together.
“Intergenerational Worship” is worship in which people of every age are understood to be equally important.