Monthly Archives: May 2015

Generations – Communion and Preaching

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the final post on generations and reflects on research date from Australia.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 1st 7.30pm – Church and Different Generations
June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!


Whilst I was preparing to write this last post on generations I came across a report from a church research group in Australia. The research was in 2008 which may be somewhat out of date now, however there was one part that sparked my interest.

Styles of worship have, in my experience, always been one of the most potentially contentions areas of church life for almost all the churches I have been involved with. Should we use the organ or a music group? Was the worship band too loud? Should we use hymns or short choruses? Should the words of the songs/hymns we use speak to God or about God? Should music convey doctrinal truth or should it be an expression of our relationship with God?

Until the past few years I have always thought about this as an area of simple personal preference, however I am now aware how generational our responses can be. This came out in part of the research I referred to above. When asked which aspects of church that were valued most this was the response:

Generations and Church Table

The first two were no surprise to me now. Older generations prefer a more traditional worship style with hymns and organ. Younger generations prefer a more contemporary style – although this isn’t necessarily the loud band led worship that Baby Boomers may prefer!

It was the responses to the importance of Communion and Preaching that surprised me.

I have often thought that in a mission shaped church in today’s society we should be less focussed on communion services. However it is very difficult to make this change when the majority of congregations are aged 50+ and prefer communion as the main focus of their Sunday worship.

It may surprise you to know that this focus on communion as the main Sunday service is actually relatively recent! Up to the 1960s the main service for Anglican churches was Mattins, or Morning Prayer. It was only after the Parish Communion Movement took hold in the 1960s that the change took place and Mattins was replaced by Holy Communion as the main focus for Sunday worship. T Book of Common Prayer states that it is only “binding on everybody to communicate three times a year”, it was not the norm prior to this movement for the average church member to receive holy communion every week.

What surprised me even more from these statistics was the preference for preaching that is expressed by the younger generations. I know this data is seven years old, but much has been made of the changes in education that have moved away from didactic, lecture style, teaching to more interactive and participative learning. For the past few summers, and on other occasions, we have taken this on board with a more interactive conversation rather than up-front teaching.

There is much here to help and inform how we do church as we go forward. I hope many of you will come along on Monday evening for the workshop that Ben Mizen will kindly lead for us.


Things I’ve read this week:



Implications of Multiple Generations @ Church

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the final post on generations and is quoted directly from Graeme Codrington who did the presentation to the Portsmouth Diocesan Conference back in 2012.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 1st 7.30pm – Church and Different Generations
June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!

Generations 4

If the generational theory is correct, it will be helpful in thinking about all aspects of church. Of course, it is a generalisation, and should not be applied without thinking and careful analysis of your local situation. Nor does it replace prayer and godly insight. But, it can nevertheless be helpful in showing us some starting points in our journey of ensuring that church remains relevant to all generations.

What follows is neither a comprehensive list, nor is it meant to be step by step instructions. But the following areas of church life and ministry are in desperate need of regeneration.

The issue of worship is one of the most divisive in most churches. The older generations want well known hymns, solemnly sung to organ accompaniment. The younger generations want medleys of repetitive, new choruses led by electric guitars, keyboards and drums. The younger generations prefer a more intimate worship style, with songs that speak to God. The Boomers enjoy lively, loud worship that celebrates God. The older generations prefer to sing formally, about God. Multi-generational churches need to work hard to have something for everyone. The focus needs to be on quality and sensitivity, ensuring a mix of styles, with a blend of old and new. There also needs to be teaching on tolerance and diversity.

In Mark 4:33-34, we read an interesting statement about how Jesus preached to the crowds who came to listen to him. Yet, the older generations still prefer the preacher to preach in a traditional style, using three point sermons based on systematic theology and hours of research in the Bible. Younger generations would prefer more practical sermons, peppered with stories. Both of these approaches are Biblical, and each has strengths and weaknesses. Again, the best solution probably involves finding a balance between the different styles (and many other styles in between as well). This can best be done by developing more preachers from with the congregation ‘ both young and old ‘ who can bring different styles to the pulpit. This would also fulfil the requirement of 2 Timothy 2:2 to allow more people into the pulpit and develop their gifts.

It is only relatively recently in history that anyone was asked, ‘Are you born again?’ or was instructed to ‘walk down the aisle’ and ‘say the sinner’s prayer’. The Silent generation believe that you can convince someone to become a Christian by logically and rationally taking them through a process of thinking. This is exemplified in the approach of Evangelism Explosion, and, to a lesser extent, Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws. Boomers have codified approaches like this and created systems out of them, taking them around the world, with slick training courses and manuals. Similarly, Billy Graham type ‘crusades’ dominated the Boomer’s early memories of evangelism, and the rock n roll style, stadium events are still favourites for them.

Today’s younger generations much prefer a more relational approach, that treats other people’s beliefs and other faiths with respect and love. That doesn’t mean ‘selling out’, it just means a different starting point, and a different approach. Today’s evangelism techniques need to focus more on helping people to experience a community of believers, and to connect with the ‘kingdom of God’ in tangible ways that go beyond explanations and arguments. The world needs to see more Christ-followers, not hear more rhetoric.

Sunday School
Sunday Schools were initially founded in the Victorian era to help children get out of the virtual slavery of child labour in Dickensian factories. They were given basic literacy skills to help them improve their lives. Today, most children view Sunday School as anything but freeing. Even the name is off putting!

We need to urgently look at the curriculum, the teaching techniques (and the training and support we give the teachers), and the goals of Sunday School. I am personally very disturbed that my two daughters tend to lurch from stories about Easter to stories about Christmas, with very little else except a few parables in between in a year. And if I see one more felt-board, I think I might cry.

Something for Everyone
The church has some tough decisions to make. There is a massive generation gap in the church and the world, and many of the strategies and ministries the older generations would prefer to maintain are no longer effective for younger generations. But we cannot simply abandon the older generations. The church must ensure that all generations are both ministered to and have opportunities to minister. This is a difficult task, but not impossible.

A pastor friend once told me that he did not just want to be an echo of his own generation, building a church that only catered for the needs of one particular group of God’s people. Like him, I believe its possible to build multi-generational churches, where each generation learns from all the others, as we reflect the diversity and unity of being the children of God.

Quoted from Graeme Codrington, read the full article here


For those who are interested I thought I’d also start posting links to other things that I’ve been reading so here are some from the past week:



Generations and Church Life Part 2

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the third in my series of post on this and again I’m resurrecting something that I posted during my sabbatical back in 2012.



A baby changes everything – don’t they? When our children were born our lives certainly changed! But do babies and children (both physical and spiritual) change everything in the family of the church?

In his thesis Graeme Codrington very helpfully uses this as a challenging illustration of the relationships between the generations within church life.

Saying that young people must “learn to worship” with the adults is hypocritical to say the least. Why do adults not “learn to worship” with the youth. Why do adults believe that they have the right to be comfortable in the style of “doing church”, and that others must adjust? This is certainly not how a family works. Those newly pregnant parents who swear that “this baby won’t change the way we live” are rightly sniggered at by those of us who know what having a baby means. The child changes the way you live. It changes the way you talk. It changes the way you view life, and innumerable adjustments are made in the home to accommodate the new life. Parent’s preferences are deprioritised in order to make these adjustments. This is not to say that the baby becomes the boss. There must be give and take, and the child must learn to live in interdependence within the family. But saying this is very different from saying that the parents will make no concessions for the child at all. It is this latter attitude that is most prevalent, unfortunately often especially in “family” churches. (Quoted from Graeme Codrington’s Thesis see below).

How do our preferences differ? The following are drawn from Graeme’s thesis and looks just at the theme of worship:

The Silent Generation (now aged over about 70) “prefer worship to be structured, analytical, clear thinking and precise, with a clear emphasis on absolute and timeless Truth … it is right and good that everyone worships in the same way, and that all worship is the same … (they) also tend to be clock watchers.”

Boomers (aged approx 51-70) “are much less structured … value highly freedom, a sense of creativity, experimentation and innovation. They enjoy frequent changes in style and approach … Efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism are important elements in worship … They prefer a “personality” leadership style, where the leader imposes his/her personality fairly clearly onto the worship event.”

Generation X (aged approx 35-50 today) “enjoy the less structured and innovative … yet desire more intimacy and relationship to be expressed. Being able to express one’s hurt, find healing and develop relationships are important aspects of worship. They are experiential, and prefer the worship leader to be a fellow pilgrim in the journey of worship, rather than a leader.”

The Millenial Generation (aged approx 15-34 today) “values flexibility and change, and is comfortable with very different expressions of worship … Professionalism is not an important factor, as long as people are able to connect with God in a meaningful way … a connection to the “real lives” is absolutely essential. They look for stimulation in the worship experience, valuing multiple sources of input, such as having two projectors, one for words of songs being sung, the other for appropriate images.”

We all have preferences and values that relate to how we pray, learn, worship and express community that are expressed differently within our generations. It is easy to label the preferences of others as maybe old fashioned or a modern gimmick, both of these are to misunderstand where others are coming from. Generational theory says there are genuine and deep reasons for these differences and we need to learn to respect and honour each other in our differences.

There seem to me to be two ways that these differences need to be expressed. The first is to respect and reflect the differences within the same gathering, service or event. This can’t be a ‘sop’ to the different expressions but an genuine respect for each other in such a way that we enter into what others prefer and value and so find that our own experience of God and Christian community is deepened.

The second way is to understand that these generational differences may mean that there are times when the generations meet separately. This already happens with Sunday School and Youth Groups (although I wonder sometimes whether this separation is more for the benefit of the adults than the youngsters!). But I wonder if we need to look at this more closely. For instance should we look at providing small groups that relate to the values, preferences and stage of life for the Silent generation (those aged over approx 70 today) separately from the Boomers & Generation X because they not only have different generational values but are generally at a different life stage?

If you want to read Graeme Codrington’s work (and I think it is great stuff and easily readable) you can find it in his book Mind The Gap or by reading his thesis which you can find online here:



Generations and Church Life Part 1

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. This is the second in my series of post on this and I’m resurrecting something that I posted during my sabbatical back in 2012.


One of the goals on my sabbatical is to improve my physical fitness and last week, whilst at the gym, I heard a gentleman singing to himself, he was aged about 75-80 (I know guessing is dangerous), and the song he was singing was ‘The Sound of Silence.’ This was very appropriate as I have been reading some material in the last couple of weeks about the differences between generations and he was a member of what has been called the Silent generation.

I heard of a conversation recently between a member of that same generation and another member in their church. The member of the Silent generation was talking about all the changes in church life over recent years,”The church hasn’t changed for 2,000 years why does it need to change now, why can everything just stay the same, as it’s meant to be!”

Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone I know very well about songs that we sing in our Sunday gatherings. They were expressing how difficult it is to sing some modern worship songs and how the music doesn’t follow the rules they were taught at school for good music writing. Emphasis is on the off beat or between the beats and that makes them difficult for public, corporate singing.

At the time of each of these I had no idea how generationally effected each of these situations was. My reaction to the more elderly person who complains about change and wants everything in the church to stay the same as they grew up with can easily be to see them as stubborn and awkward, standing in the way of progress! What is happening behind the scenes is that the person probably grew up in a time of great turmoil and difficulty and the church was the one place of stability and safety and, for them, became a sanctuary and this is the root of their generational preference for keeping things as they are.

My natural reaction to music that is more modern and written to different rules and is therefore difficult to sing in public settings (especially when you haven’t got the strong and imposing lead of a worship band) is to say its not working, it wont work, it’s bad musically and therefore we won’t use it. What is happening here behind the scenes is that a generation has indeed rewritten the rule book for writing good music, their music is written on the off beat or between the beats and it isn’t intended for public, corporate singing in the same way that hymns or choruses are. It is a style of music where participation is not expressed by singing all the words with heart and gusto, participation is by joining in, supporting and enjoying the performance of the song.

It is also important for older church members to understand that the radical societal changes of the last twenty years have not left cultural expressions untouched. In particular, music has changed radically. For example, “youth today, for the most part, are not listening to music that they can sing. Most youth music is simply heard but that does not make it nonparticipatory music. The music still demands nonverbal participation” (Schowalter 1995:21). (Quoted from Graeme Codrington’s Thesis see below).

The work I have read is by Graeme Codrington. His presentation on generational theory was for me one of the highlights of the Portsmouth Diocesan Conference in September last year. Since then I have heard him gve the same presentation again and I have read his book, Mind The Gap, and also his MA thesis on multi-generational ministry in the church. His presentations, both in person and in writing are thought provoking and challenging and potentially effect almost every area of the lives of our church communities. The way we prefer to pray, learn, worship, lead and understand or experience the Gospel can all have significant generational overtones.

I write this having just led a Myers Briggs workshop for people in Winchester Diocese (I know I’m on sabbatical but the fee for the workshop will help pay for a small part of my sabbatical!). I am aware therefore that there are many different aspects to who we are. Our family setting, upbringing, experiences, gifts and abilities as well as our personalities have made us who we are today. What I had not realised to any real extent before was how much the era in which we were born has also moulded who we are today. We are all created as unique by God, and yet there are similarities between us. There are 16 MBTI types and I was reminded last weekend just how similar individuals with the same MBTI type can be. Just as those with the same type are unique but also have deep areas of similarity, so those born in a generation are unique but also have deep areas of similarity. All is well and good with one type or generation until they meet another type or generation, and potentially mis-hear and misunderstand the other. It is so easy to think that our type or generation has the ‘right’ values, worldview, understanding likes and dislikes. When one type or generation is the dominant one it can be difficult and uncomfortable for the other types and generations and within the church the option is always there to walk out of the back door never to return (and many sadly have done so!).

I’ll pick up this theme in my next post but in the meantime if you want to read Graeme Codrington’s work you can find it in his book Mind The Gap or by reading his thesis which you can find online here:



Introducing The Generations

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings is on the differences in generations. When you were born has a big influence on your values and priorities in life. Over the next three weeks I will be starting to explore this in a series of blog posts. The first of these today will introduce the different generations.


The Silent Generation Born 1925 – 1945

The Queen, Michael Caine


The Silent Generation was the generation born between the two World Wars, they were too young to join the service when World War II started, many had fathers who served in World War I.

Living through rationing and austerity, they believe in hard work with a waste-not, want-not mentality.

They are averse to debt, and with a strong belief in sticking to the rules and the importance of law and order.

Pre-feminism women; women stayed home generally to raise children, if they worked it was only certain jobs like teacher, nurse or secretary.

Men pledged loyalty to the corporation, once you got a job, you generally kept it for life.

Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.

After the war they enjoyed near full employment plus rapidly improving schools for their children and free health care through the NHS.

They are avid readers, especially newspapers.

The Big-Band/Swing music generation.

Strong sense of trans-generational common values and near-absolute truths.

Disciplined, self-sacrificing and cautious

They were the first gener­ation to contemplate early retirement and saw the class system begin to break down.

Baby Boomers Born 1946 – 1964

Tony Blair, Richard Branson


The Baby Boomers were the generation born just after World War II, a time that included a 14-year increase in birthrate worldwide commonly referred to as the baby boom. Baby Boomers in their teen and college years were characteristically part of the 1960s counterculture, but later became more conservative. And their kids were the first generation to reject the values of their parents in an explosion of new music, art and lifestyles. “Rock and roll” music generation.

Baby Boomers enjoyed free student grants, low house prices and they now hold the reins of power and have the most economic clout.

In 2004 Baby Boomers held 80% of the UK’s wealth, much of it comes from property they own.

In the 1970s, they had to borrow only three times their salary to buy a home. Today’s generation need seven times.

Buy it now and use credit.

Too busy for much neighborly involvement yet strong desires to reset or change the common values for the good of all.

Even though their mothers were generally housewives, responsible for all child rearing, women of this generation began working outside the home in record numbers, thereby changing the entire nation as this was the first generation to have their own children raised in a two-income household where mom was not omnipresent.

The first TV generation.

The first divorce generation, where divorce was beginning to be accepted as a tolerable reality.

Optimistic, driven, team-oriented.

Tend to be more positive about authority, hierarchal structure and tradition.

Their aging will change the country almost incomprehensibly; they are the first generation to use the word “retirement” to mean being able to enjoy life after the children have left home. Instead of sitting in a rocking chair, they go skydiving, exercise and take up hobbies, which increases their longevity.

Generation X Born 1965 – 1980

Ant and Dec, Ed Miliband


The first wave left school in the early 1980s in an era of mass unemployment with the Cold War threatening nuclear annihilation.

They are more tolerant of different religions, races and sexual orientations and more adaptable – one member of Britpop band Blur became a Labour councillor and one is a cheese-making farmer.

Entrepreneurial. Very individualistic.

Government and big business mean little to them.

Want to save the neighborhood, not the world.

Cynical of many major institutions, which failed their parents, or them, during their formative years and are therefore eager to make marriage work and ‘be there’ for their children.

Desire a chance to learn, explore and make a contribution.

Tend to commit to self rather than an organisation or specific career. This generation averages 7 career changes in their lifetime, it was not normal to work for a company for life, unlike previous generations.

Late to marry (after cohabitation) and quick to divorce…many single parents.

Want what they want and want it now but struggling to buy, and most are deeply in credit card debt.

Cautious, skeptical, unimpressed with authority, self-reliant.

Boomerang Generation is one of several terms applied to the current generation of young adults in Western culture, so named for the frequency with which they choose to live with their parents after a brief period of living alone.

Generation Y Born 1981 – 2000

Jessica Ennis-Hill, Adele


Also known as the Millenials and generation ‘Why?’, this generation has never known economic good times and with little hope of buying a home, many rely on mum and dad.

Jobs are low-paid and last for an average 15 months compared to more than 10 years for Baby Boomers.

The majority, 60%, believe they will be worse off than their parents’ generation.

But they have also resolved to achieve a better work-life balance after seeing those parents work day and night at stressful jobs to maintain a successful llfestyle.

Generation Y has been shaped by the technology revolution that saw computers, tablets and the web become central to work and life, giving them a skills edge over their elders.

They are nurtured by omnipresent parents, optimistic, and focused.

Respect authority.

They schedule everything.

They feel enormous academic pressure.

Prefer digital literacy as they grew up in a digital environment. Have never known a world without computers! They get all their information and most of their socialization from the Internet.

Prefer to work in teams.

With unlimited access to information tend to be assertive with strong views.

Envision the world as a 24/7 place; want fast and immediate processing.

They have been told over and over again that they are special, and they expect the world to treat them that way.

They do not live to work, they prefer a more relaxed work environment with a lot of hand holding and accolades.

Generation Z Born after 2001

Malala Yousafzai, Nick D’Aloisio


The oldest Gen Z child was six at the time of the 9/11 terror attacks.

They are growing up amid “chaos, uncertainty, volatility and complexity”.

But they are also hailed as “the first tribe of true digital natives” or “screenagers”.

There are two billion Gen Z-ers worldwide and they are socially-aware self-starters, more driven but less self-involved than their elders. 72% want to start their own firms.

They say they prefer saving to spending and they drink and smoke cannabis less than earlier generations.

They have fewer fights at school and less risky sex. In fact they have learned all the lessons their elders took a lifetime to understand.

They have never known a world without computers and mobile/smart phones.

Have Eco-fatigue: they are actually tired of hearing about the environment and the many ways we have to save it.

With the advent of computers and web based learning, children leave behind toys at younger and younger age. Many companies have suffered because of it, most recognizable is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. In the 1990’s the average age of a child in their target market was 10 years old, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old. As children reach the age of four and five, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as smart phones, tablets and video games.

They are savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it and they are over saturated with brands.