Just typing the words “multi-generational worship” stresses me out. This is one of those issues that some church leaders just wish to ignore and hope goes away. There are so many landmines, what if’s pros and cons, fears and hopes wrapped up in this concept of focusing on more than one generation in a singular worship experience. It feels a lot like the ball of extension cords in my garage and we approach it about the same way — just stay away. Let’s take a few moments and try to untangle some of the thoughts behind multi-generational worship.
It’s worth noting that multi-generational worship has been the standard for the majority of church history. It’s a modern concept in church to have specialized ministries for different generations, and customized worship experiences. However, there are benefits to offering both specialized and multi-generational experiences.
Below are some WHY’S and WHY NOT’S you should focus on multi-generational worship at your church:
- Shared experience – When I was young, I remember standing next to my dad in church. He was in a suit and I was in my Sunday best. I looked up at him with his hands raised, worshiping God with tears in his eyes. He was modeling something for me that can’t be taught in a class. Having a multi-generational experience allows one generation to model to the next what it means to worship and experience the presence of God. That day I experienced God in a new way through my dad, and it birthed a desire for me to want more of God, too.
- Learning Together – I get warm and fuzzy inside thinking about families hearing and learning about God together. When presented well, this can be a dynamic experience. Multi-generational worship works best when it’s not a traditional church experience — sitting in a row as a family and listening to a preacher talk for 45 or 50 minutes. It must be fully-engaging multimedia experience that is fun for the entire family.
- Parents Prepared – Many of the families that come to church today have parents who didn’t grow up in church. They are new believers themselves, and are not yet sure how to disciple their kids. When families experience God and scripture together, parents new to faith can have a platform to begin a conversation from with their children. Dinners and drives home shift from “What did you learn today?” to “Wasn’t it cool when _____?” This gives parents a confidence to talk about God that they didn’t have before.
The Why Not’s
- Specialized Teaching – Thinking about teaching a meaningful message to reach both a grade-schooler and an adult is hard. Having a specialized message for each age group can target the need, development, and learning style of every age group.
- Fewer Distractions – Let’s be honest– no matter how dynamic the teacher, it’s tough to hold the attention of little ones for long. And when kids are distracted, so are parents, and everyone else around.
- Everyone will like church more – When your kids enjoy going to church, the rest of the family usually does too! It’s much more difficult to attend and enjoy church if your younger ones lack the motivation to go, or are bored in services. When you create children’s services apart from “adult” services, parents get a break from their kids, kids have fun, everybody stays engaged, and everybody wins.
Though there may be pros and cons to multi-generational worship versus specialized ministries, I believe that like most things in life, the answer is not in either option alone, but in a balance of both.
As church leaders, we have to rethink how ministry looks to each age group and how they complement each other, and how we build a bridge to what happens on the weekdays and the weekend. We’ve got to build ministries that support the parents, capture the hearts of the next generation, and provide a place for generations to experience God together.
Here are a few questions to ask your ministry team as you process your church’s needs:
- Do we focus too much on specialized ministry?
- What could a family worship experience look like for us?
- What would be the best venue for that?
- What are the roadblocks keeping us from multi-generational ministry?
- What is the right balance between church-led and parent-led ministry?
- How can we continue this conversation?