Blog post by Shirley Carlson, Board of Directors of GenOn Ministries
Increasingly, churches are recognizing the benefit of including all ages in the ministries of their church, including worship. GenOn Ministries strongly encourages congregations to involve the generations together in ways that allow each generation to value and learn from each other. Intergenerational sharing has proven to be the most impactful way of stimulating faith development.
I once was a member of a large church where the youth and the children’s programs were segregated. Not surprisingly, the adults in worship, who did not have children or youth, never saw these younger members because they went directly to their classes or worship time. As a result it was often difficult to get the children’s ministry needs recognized appropriately during budget time. As a member of the Children’s Ministry Team, I pointed out that if adults regularly interacted with the younger generation, they might loosen the church’s purse strings. We also made this known to the Youth Ministry Team. The children and youth became more visible. The children came into worship for the beginning praise worship and stayed through the Children’s Sermon and the youth led worship once a month. Once this happened, funding began to increase for both ministries.
People began to interact across generations following worship during the fellowship time. A children’s section was added to the adult library and more all-church family nights were added. The church became healthier, and all ages benefited. Truthfully, I wish we had taken it a step further to have a fully intergenerational worship experience where all ages remain and participate in the service. For example, children reading scripture or dramatizing it, youth choirs, ushers or greeters of all ages and sermons that have examples that all can understand. Yes, this can be challenging but there are resources available to help, see the links below.
Studies show that college age and young adults who remain active in the church most likely grew up in a church where all ages worshiped together. They had the opportunity to develop a sense of belonging, and they will seek out a community of faith when they graduate from college or relocate to a new area. Worship is not foreign to them.
GenOn Ministries stresses the importance of children and youth interacting with Christian adults in a mentoring type relationship. If you are a parent, make an effort to develop strong relationships with other children or youth as well. We all become stronger in our faith when we have a community of supporters. Although my children are grown, I deliberately interact with the younger ones in our church, and I see on their faces their delight at being recognized and known. It is extremely important to them. I also feel blessed when they interact with me and call me by name.
Check out the links below to help your church include all generations:
GenOn Ministries: Tools and Support for Intergenerational Ministry
Lifelong Faith Formation: Importance of Intergenerational Community
Calvin Institute: When All Ages Worship Together
Sticky Faith: The Church Sticking Together