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: