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Multigenerational Worship

Years ago, someone was likely tired of kids being restless in church. They likely thought “we can solve this problem by pulling out the children and having their own worship service.” If you want to spend 5 minutes getting a chuckle, check out this video, which is a tongue-in-cheek satire of how children’s churches may have started.

While starting children’s services may have been (and perhaps still is) a noble attempt to help educate children in the faith at their developmental level with programming that helps children learn and worship, the result has been age segregation in the church, not just in during the “Sunday school” hour but also in corporate worship settings. This post is not meant to debate the pros and cons of this, only point to out the effect of age segregation.

In the late 20th century, churches began to market themselves specifically toward certain generations. Some declare “We are a boomer church”, while others declared “We are a babybuster” church. From the style of music, to programs for their children, to attire worn in the service, some established churches attempted to rebrand themselves in one way or another, and church plants set out to target a particular generation. Other churches started multiple services. Most often differentiated by the style of music in an attempt to please people by giving them choices of musical style in worship. Older folks often gravitated toward “traditional” services while younger people more commonly chose “contemporary” services.

Again, the scope of this post is not meant to attack or defend these efforts. I believe that many churches were seriously trying to reach others with the gospel, and helping themselves identify a particular “people group” or worship style was one way to do this.

Yet, the net effect again was one of age segregation. As churches target one generation (although perhaps not wanting to exclude other generations), by its very nature the types of music, programming and even preaching style might cause one generation to gravitate to one church while other generations would go to another. This model of church (fueled by the consumer mentality found in churches today) has proven to segregate the generations within the church.

One of the buzzwords that is being talked about in worship ministry today is “multigenerational worship.” What a new and innovative idea! For millennia, churches have worshiped with generations together. Unfortunately, we have now spent decades apart. It is great to see this trend reversing, with intentionality returning to churches wanting to worship together will all ages. Different churches are doing this in different ways. Some are doing things like having family days where the families are altogether in church, while others are having family choirs and involving children in worship leading.

I see five benefits to multigenerational worship:

1. It is biblical. Psalm 145:4 says: “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Can this be done outside of corporate worship? Of course, and we are commanded to do so. Deuteronomy 6:7 says “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” However, why wouldn’t we want to be together in our corporate gatherings?

2. It models worship for the next generation. I believe that worship is caught as well as taught. As young generations see the older generations worship, they observe what worship should be. They see the ordinances of the church, which can be very educational and lead to further conversations. I Chronicles 25 records how the Levites utilized the next generation in worship leading. In this chapter, which talks about the musician’s service to God, verse 8 gives this interesting fact “Young and old alike, teacher as well as student, cast lots for their duties.” It seems that they were very open to intergenerational worship, as both young and old were randomly used.

3. It brings about a sense of unity. A former pastor of mine used to say “you can’t have unity without proximity,” and I think that applies in this case. We are all the church, and worshipping together is a strong sign of the unity that we should be showing a church. While Gal. 3:26-28 doesn’t specifically address the young and the old, it does contrast how various constituencies are one in Christ.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

4. It fulfills the “one anothers” of scripture. Scripture doesn’t say “love people of your own age group” or “encourage people who are just like you.” It commands us to “sing to one another” (Eph. 5:19), “instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14), “love one another” (John 13:34).

5. Intergenerational worship shows deference for one another. Worshiping together means that the style of music that I might prefer, the mode of dress, or even the preaching style might be different than your personal preference, and I’m willing to make that sacrifice for others who may have different opinions. Philippians 2:4 says “Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.”

Consider multigenerational worship as it is not just a “fad” but a return to Christian tradition.

6 comments to Multigenerational Worship

  • I agree that the return to multigenerational worship is a very good thing. My church does what we call “all in Sunday” on the fifth Sunday of the months that have five Sundays, and it’s always a great time. Sure there are kids squirming and babies crying, but there’s something beautiful about children of God of all ages coming together and worshiping the Lord together. Of the five points listed, point three really stuck out to me. It is so easy for church members to adopt a sense superiority about their preferred style (I’m not innocent of this myself). Learning to be unified, even at the expense of personal preference, is valuable for all believers. This unity models what we will experience in Heaven, so why wouldn’t we want that unity now?

  • Don Moore


    Your dad forwarded your article on Multigenerational Worship. The many changes we have made to adapt to the various societal groups with a view to reaching them, has apparently not worked. The record of the younger generation leaving the “church” reveals that they have not found something of enough value to want to perpetuate it.

    I am grateful for your courage and your insights. The kingdom moves forward on the strength of the manifest presence of God rather than on methodological adjustments.

    God bless you and all of your outstanding family.

    Uncle Don

  • Emma Haylett

    As mentioned above, multigenerational worship is a good thing. In essence it is a glimpse of what heaven will be like as we will all be worshiping together, rather than exclusively. For some topics or heavier studies presented to the congregation by the pastor, the Church leadership needs to be aware of how much exposure young kids have to certain topics, but other than that, I believe multigenerational worship is a beautiful thing. I completely agree with the reasons above of why multigenerational worship is beneficial to the Church. Including kids in services also teaches them songs that reflect biblical truth. Therefore, they are already reflecting on truth from a young age.

  • Brayden Groff

    I agree that multigenerational is a very valuable aspect that the church has been ignoring. I know this even from my own experience at church. At my home church, we would have Sunday school with youth from 9-10:15 and then join the congregation for our 2nd service worship at 10:45. However, even though we were surrounded by older generations, we all sat in our own section and continued to only talk to people our age. Looking back I wish that I would have been more intentional with learning from the older generations in my church. There is a lot to learn from what they have to say and also great fellowship to be had. I don’t think that the church needs to get rid of children’s ministries because I think that there is great value in them that can not be found in a normal church service. However, I think that children need to be given an opportunity to learn and worship with other generations as well.

  • Mat Taylor

    I didn’t grow up in a church that was very multigenerational. Growing up in a small town in Kentucky at a Southern Baptist church, the congregation was mostly older people and a very small youth group so I didn’t experience it. At Cedarville, the chapel is also not multigenerational so we cater our services towards a specific generation of people. All that is said just to say I’ve never really experienced a multigenerational church until I started attending HFC here and it has been a greatly enriching experience as I am able to be a part of these biblical ideas that were mentioned in your post. I love how it is a glimpse of heaven when thousands of generations will gather together to praise the Lord for eternity!