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 The research was in 2008 which may be somewhat out of date now, however there was one part that sparked my interest.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: