Intergenerational Worship Wars Part 1: What happened?

Rev. Melissa Cooper, Program Coordinator

If you've engaged the "intergenerational" conversation at all, you know what I'm talking about. 

Most folks are open to trying out intergenerational programs. Most parents love getting a take-home sheet from Sunday School (they may or may not use it, but they're glad to get it!). A potluck or church-wide supper is always a hit. 

But there's one place where things come off the rails when we talk intergenerational: worship

It's ironic, really, because when age-level ministries were being developed, and as they became an expected part of the congregational experience, there was one "assumed" thing: worship was for the whole community!

Now, however, we live in a culture of Christian silos, with congregations primarily segregated by age, sometimes even in entirely different buildings! The larger the church, generally the more segregated we become, too.

And in that bastion of intergenerationality, the Sunday morning community worship service, even there, many of our churches have again separated. One pastor commented to me, "Most of the children have probably never seen me."

Although overwhelmingly pastors, parents and ministry leaders agree that it's important for kids to worship, the conversation becomes contentious when the topic of kids in "big church" comes up.  

The greatest opponents of kids in congregational worship are no longer the classic, cartoonish "grumpy old folks" - most often those who most vigorously support "Children's Church" are the parents of the children themselves.  

However, the importance of children in worship with the rest of their church community cannot be overstated: they need to be present in worship, and they need to be there for more than just a few minutes of singing.  

The fabulous research done by the Fuller Youth Institute tells us that the most common thread among high school and college aged students who were found to have mature faith was intergenerational worship experiences. 

It's not done easily, and it's worth doing. Over the next few posts, we'll be exploring the most common arguments against intergenerational worship and why it's important we find ways to overcome the challenges faced in re-integrating the worship experience for all ages. 

So, what are the most common arguments you hear against all-ages in worship? Share in the comments!