The previous post by Jonathan Sargeant is well worth reading, as it raises the critical question of how we approach the thorny subject of dealing with a multi-age congregation. Essentially, do we separate people during the service based on age-brackets or do we keep them together?
Take a moment to think about your first response to this idea: that any children and young people who are present during your usual main worship service will stay in the church, with the adults, for the whole duration of the service.
How do you feel about it? Worried? Sceptical? Excited? Is it what you do now?
The theological arguments in favour of all generations staying together throughout times of worship are hard to beat. The compelling conclusions in Allen & Ross are that there are numerous Scriptural verses and examples to be drawn from Christian tradition to show that the historical norm has been the whole household participating together in all functions of church. It is only in the last few decades that intentional separating has occurred between the generations, with typically the youngest generations being asked to leave for at least part of the service.
The wisdom behind this seems to be: the children want to go and do age-appropriate activities with friends their age, learning Christian teachings in a form they can absorb easily; the adults who stay in church probably want the children to go away so that the little ones are not ‘bored and restless’, distracting their parents and others.
Any suggestion that children should stay in church more often is not meant to dismiss the talents of the many gifted Children’s Ministers and volunteer Sunday School teachers who could argue that their weekly work may well be more influential in the faith journeys of their young charges than if they had stayed in a service which gave them no special attention. That’s a fair point.
But in my view, there is simply no mistaking the joy which comes from participating in a liturgy where all ages are engaged and welcome for the whole time of worship. As the parish case studies elsewhere on this website illustrate, there is a widespread desire at present to explore the liturgical flexibility available within the current Prayer Book in ways which bring the generations together in worship.
There will inevitably be a spirit of ‘give and take’ needed on all sides. But the parishes I know who are making intergenerational worship a priority are seeing amazing results: new appreciation of the abilities and interests of other generations; the sight and sound of young people ‘up the front’ in genuine roles; meaningful communication between members of the congregation who have never spoken before; and much more.
Lex orandi, lex credendi is a famous Christian motto which basically means that the way we worship demonstrates what we believe. Imagine if Anglican worship today became known not only for its faithfulness, but also for its ‘family-friendliness’ with no loss of depth or meaning. After all, if it’s not a family-friendly service… then what is it?
If intergenerational worship sounds appealing in theory (and theology), I can assure you it is also a lot of fun in practice. Let me introduce you to some colleagues doing amazing work in resourcing the rest of us in this area:
- My Victorian friends at Intergen publish regular free examples of intergenerational worship resources. Here’s an introduction to their approach (An Introduction to Risen and Real) and have a look at a sample of an intergenerational Pentecost liturgy here: Year B Pentecost May 20 2018
- The Lutheran Church also produces great resources, though you may have to subscribe to see all of them: www.growministries.org.au
- An Anglican colleague down South also has a considerable amount to share at www.effectiveministry.org/intergenerational-ministry
Apart from these, we are rapidly creating our own curated set of resources here on the GT website at www.generationstogether.org.au/resources/intergenerational-praying where you will find step by step instructions on planning effective intergenerational worship. Or if you’d like to discuss anything here in person, don’t hesitate to contact me, and as I often say to people: if in doubt, be integenerational!