Intergenerational Worship: Connecting All Generations in Worship and Service by Brett Wilson

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I have always taken an interest in learning and listening from those older than me.  I think it stems from my father constantly reminding me that others’ experience and wisdom would be beneficial to me if I chose to listen and apply it, especially since most of what they had to share were discussions that were very relevant.  Thus, I made the decision that I would learn to appreciate what older individuals had to offer me in my own journey.  

As I look back throughout my formative years, I now realize that there were many individuals who were a part of my spiritual development that I associated with through church or affiliated ministries.  For instance, I vividly remember one morning when my Sunday School teacher asked each person in our class to seek out an older individual in the church to be a prayer partner–someone who would consistently pray for us and we would do the same in return.  I remember that morning walking up the stairs from class and talking to Souter Hoople, an elderly gentlemen who had a tremendous heart for kids, to be my prayer partner.  Needless to say, he agreed and up until he passed away, we had a relationship that was ever so encouraging.  On one occasion, he challenged me to read a book of Proverbs each day suggesting that the wisdom within its’ pages would prove to be the best instruction I could ever receive in life.  Another time he encouraged me to keep praying for my father, who at that time wasn’t following Jesus.  The thing that I remember most was that this man took time for me and he saw his interactions and prayers as an investment.  Souter was only the beginning though.  From there, I had many others including Lawrence Rhoads (pastor, Otway Christian Union Church), Neal Skiles (pastor, Heath Christian Union Church), Jody and Beth Stevens (missionaries, InFaith), Jack Powell (pastor, Faith Fellowship), Jeff Dunn (pastor, Rockhaven), Randy McClay, Tim Amburgey and Jonathan King (pastor, Hill’s Chapel CU Church), to name a few, who have shown great interest in my growth and discipleship and to whom I am very grateful.  

While I was allowing others to speak into my life, I was also aware that there was another side of this mentorship that I had to consider.  I had to answer these questions, “Was I taking an interest in those younger than me?  Was I willing to invest my time into helping them to mature and develop into strong believers like many had done for me?”  I was blessed to serve as a cabin leader at Mt. Hope Bible Camp each summer during my high school and college years where I was given that opportunity.  It was during this time that I was able to teach and interact with a cabin full of boys, some of which have now grown and matured into dedicated Christians.

As I consider all of this–the intergenerational nature of my journey, I realize how rare this is and how blessed I am to have had this in my life and to have realized its’ value at the time.  When I look at the lives of others who were a part of my youth group, I did not witness these meaningful relationships in either direction.  Many of them have now left the faith not having relationships to help build into them as they matured through their college years.  This concept of intergenerational worship, from my own experience, has merit, and my hope is that many in leadership will consider its’ importance.

Let me explain a little further.  Recently, I attended a webinar with the Christian Camping and Conference Association (CCCA) that spotlighted Fuller Youth Institute and executive director, Kara Powell.  During the webinar, I learned that some of the recent research indicates that 40-50% of youth group graduates–those who were a part of a youth group in high school before heading off to college–walk away from the faith and the church.  In their research, they studied thirteen different variables hoping to find a correlation and the one that seemed to have the strongest connection to students maintaining a long-term faith is intergenerational worship.1

So as pastors and church leaders and concerned about the youth of our area here in southern Ohio, I hope to ask a few questions to help you consider the intentionality of your efforts to build an intergenerational congregation.  

  1. Do the kids in your congregation know the salvation testimonies of their parents and other adults in the congregation?  If not, why not take some time to allow those who are older to share with complete transparency about their faith journey with those who need to hear it most?
  2. Do the adults in your church know the names of the kids in your church?  This may seem like a small thing, but not to your youth.  If you need, use some ice breaker games with your entire congregation so that everyone gets to know each other.
  3. Do your adults and kids learn together?  Do your adults and kids worship together?  Do they serve together?  If not, take some time with your leadership team to develop a plan about being more intentional when it comes to learning, worshiping and serving together.

In closing, let me encourage you to check out some of the resources offered by Fuller Youth Institute, especially their curriculum series entitled, “Sticky Faith.”  The power of intergenerational worship is evidenced in research and through my own experience and I’m sure that many of you can attest to similar findings from your own journeys.  Together, let’s work to be intentional about building lasting faith in our young people.

Brett Wilson is the director at Mt. Hope Bible Camp in Otway, Ohio along with his wife Sarah. Brett and Sarah attend and serve at Hills Chapel Church, also in Otway.

1 The Church Sticking Together: The Vital Role of Intergenerational Relationships in Fostering Sticky Faith.  Copyright © Fuller Youth Institute.  Retrieved from http://stickyfaith.org/articles/the-church-sticking-together.  The article “The Church Sticking Together was adapted from Sticky Faith, Youth Worker Edition, by Kara Powell, Brad Griffin and Cheryl Crawford (Zondervan 2011) and originally appeared in the Sept/Oct edition of Immerse Journal.

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  1. […] Pastors Coalition features an article written by Brett Wilson challenging churches to not neglect inter-generational Community in the local […]



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