FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER: Why Intergenerational Services are Good for the Local Church (Part 4).

Finally, a regularly scheduled intergenerational service allows the church to benefit from mutual edification.  Such edification takes place through the relationships that develop among the believers who regularly meet together. Researchers David M. Csinos and Ivy Beckwith state that for young people, “Receiving support, encouragement, and guidance from three or more nonparent adults is a key developmental asset. Through intergenerational community, children and youth have opportunities to form these types of relationships.”[1]  Referring back to the aforementioned Lilli from the book, Sticky Faith, “I would have liked to see more integration within the larger church body and a clear direction for teenagers to learn what it means to walk with Christ, take up their cross daily, serve others at a cost to oneself, and be disciplined.”[2]

An intergenerational church service allows children to receive such support from a non-parent, which research shows, is a key catalyst in their social and emotional development.  According to one study: “Children who receive from their church the provision of love, empathy, caring, trust, a sense of community, and the feeling of family are more likely to internalize the church’s values regarding prosocial behavior.  They are also more likely to experience God as close and responsive, which in turn predicts increased prosocial behavior.”[3]  Powell and Clark recount another testimony of such inclusion from a young lady named Bess.  She stated: “My parents always made sure that I was involved in a lot of adult groups and classes at church and it was there that I felt the most valued and welcome.”[4]  When children are seen as an important part of the church community, they receive the necessary social and emotional support for healthy growth.

It is not only the youth who benefit from an intergenerational service.  Adults of all ages can also gain from having the “fresh” eyes of children in their midst.  Kara Powell recounts a time when her eyes were opened to this truth when she writes:

It was our Good Friday evening service and our family arrived a few minutes early. As we were waiting for the service to start, Krista pointed at the front of the worship center and asked, “Mommy, what are those yellow tubes? There are so many of them.”

I smiled and answered, “Krista, those are the pipes for the organ.”

“Mommy, what’s an organ?”

My amusement at my daughter’s first question quickly changed to dismay. No one, including me or my husband, had ever explained to her all of the dynamics and elements of our worship service. How could she feel a part of the broader community if she felt like a confused outsider? So I made it my mission at that Good Friday service to explain everything. I whispered in her ear, “Hear that music? That’s coming from the organ.”

“See that woman? She’s making announcements.”

“Can you read those words on the screen? They’re reminding us what Jesus did by dying for us on the cross.”

Here I am a champion for intergenerational ministry and my own daughter didn’t understand what was happening in intergenerational worship. It was a good reminder that we grown-ups take a lot for granted, and children have a lot to learn.[5]

Furthermore, adults profit as they regularly encounter the child-like faith on display.  Garland declares how this mutual edification takes place when she writes, “As children learn from the experiences and knowledge of those older than they are, so to do we adults learn from the experiences and knowledge of young people.”[6]

One man stated that such a service can be used to move a person out of prior comfort zones.  He states, “If we’re reaching out to the community, we are going to have at least one out of two kids who don’t have a dad in the home.  So they need healthy male mentorship to encourage them and let them know how special they are in God’s eyes.”[7]  He then stated that he saw his role as being one of these mentors during the intergenerational service.[8]  Another man in his late seventies who saw it as a blessing to have his children seated with him in the service during their childhood years stated that an intergenerational service gives hope to the future of the faith.  He said, “We pray for the families in our church.  Seeing these children in the church encourages us that they are under the preaching of the Word.”[9]  He went on to say that seeing kids in the church service gives him an assurance that his prayer is being answered regarding the future of the church.  “For me an adult”, he said “I want others to have the blessings we had.”[10] An intergenerational service provides a safe, non-judgmental environment where the entire audience, young and old alike, mutually edify one another through prayer, worship, and the teaching of Scripture.

In Ephesians, Paul declares that God’s design for the local church was to display His wisdom to the world through the inclusion of all ethnicities into the “one new man”, the church.[11]  The church has pursued this call yet, sadly, ignored the inclusion of all ages for the sake of tradition and comfort.  This has been seen to allow drastic results in the family and the local church.  Local churches should purposefully solve this despairing situation through a weekly intergenerational service to allow for parents to be proactive in the discipleship of their children, include children and youth in the life of the church community, and permit the congregation to benefit from the joint instruction from each age group.

Grace and peace,


[1] Csinos, David M, and Ivy Beckwith. “Better Together: The Formative Power of Intergenerational Community.” Family and Community Ministries (Online) 28 (2015) EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

[2] Powell, Sticky Faith, (Kindle Locations 1116-1120).

[3] Crosby, Robert G III, and Erin I Smith. “Church Support as a Predictor of Children’s Spirituality and Prosocial Behavior.” Journal of Psychology & Theology 43, no. 4 (2015): EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).

[4] Powell, Sticky Faith, (Kindle Locations 1199-1200).

[5] Powell, Sticky Faith, (Kindle Locations 1301-1311).

[6] Garland, Family Ministry, 455.

[7] Carl Deaton, interview by author, Winston-Salem, NC, August 12, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Dr. Barkev Trachian, interview by author, Winston-Salem, NC, August 11, 2016

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ephesians 2:11-3:10.

FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER: Why Intergenerational Services are Good for the Local Church (Part 3).

Another benefit of a strategic intergenerational service is that it allows the church to purposefully include children and youth in the life of the church community, declaring openly that they are a part of the larger church body.  One of the repeated oppositions heard when children are included in an otherwise adult-oriented service is that these young people will bring a distraction into the congregation, keeping adults from being able to pay attention to the sermon.  Because of this belief, many feel that the children are best kept separate from the congregation in their own “children’s church” or youth group.  The problem with such thinking is that it may communicate, albeit unintentionally, that, in the church, the worship of the adults is of more importance than that of the youth.  Experienced director of children’s ministries, Heather Nicole Ingersoll notes this partisan treatment when she writes:

When the spiritual nurture and faith of adults are viewed as more important than those of children, adultism pervades the church…While adult’s desires are important, the church will never reach a more balanced approach to nurturing children’s spirituality without placing a greater emphasis on the perspective of the needs of children.[1]

Adultism could have drastic consequences in the children’s perceptions of their place in the life of the church.  Diana R. Garland makes the following observation regarding the unintentional perception we communicate to the youth when she writes:

The physical ways we design and furnish our homes sometimes unintentionally shape our life together.  Similarly, the ways we shape the life of our congregations have sometimes unintended but powerful effects on the lives of the families in the congregation because they influence what kind of community the congregation is…Because children may be unable to sit quietly for an hour or more, and because our worship time is centered on adults, many congregations provide separate programming for children during worship, allowing parents and other adults to worship without the disturbances of children.  But when children are instead included in congregational worship, we communicate to them that they are a part of us, regardless of their ability to sit still or fully understand everything that we do together.[2]

Christian author and mother of three, Megan Hill furthers this concept when she writes, “More than a third of regular churchgoers have kids under 18, according to the General Social Survey.  Now is the time when these kids begin forming ideas about what church is and whether it is important to them. Now is when Christian communities should welcome them, not merely into child-focused activities, but into the authentic, multifaceted life of the church.”[3]  Rather than being an awkward addition, a child who has regular access to worship with adults is better able to be integrated into the pulse of the life of the local church because they have historically been welcomed as a meaningful part.  Such a view of themselves as belonging to a bigger body could not be possible without this type of inclusion.

In their book, Sticky Faith, Kara Powell and Chap Clark share the testimony of a young lady named Lilli who longed for such inclusion.  She states, “I wish that there had been an intentional effort by the church to integrate the teenagers in the body with older believers. Although I was able to do this because of my parents’ direction, many of the other teenagers were content to remain in youth group, largely separated from the vision and ministry of the church at large.”[4]  Garland goes further when she writes, “Including everyone communicates powerfully that everyone has value…Including them in worship as equals says that they are valuable parts of the body now, and we are incomplete without them.”[5]  Furthermore, the young person that is isolated from the main worship of the congregation is more likely to misunderstand what worship is.  Author Patricia Meyers points out, “Holding Sunday school at the same time as the one and only worship service ensures that children will not learn how to worship.  They will not learn its value, and likely will not value it as adults.”[6]  An intergenerational service allows these young believers to learn worship by being an integral part.

Grace and peace,


[1] Ingersoll, “Making Room.”

[2] Garland, Family Ministry, 449-452.

[3] Hill, Megan. “Full Members at Age 1: Are We Welcoming Children into All of Church Life?” Christianity Today 57, no. 8 (October 2013).  EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

[4] Powell, Kara E.; Powell, Kara E.; Clark, Chap; Clark, Chap. Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids (Kindle Locations 1116-1120). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[5] Garland, Family Ministry, 455.

[6] Meyers, Live, Learn, Pass It On!, 29.

FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER: Why an Intergenerational Service is Good for the Local Church (Part 2).


Scripture is clear that the primary facilitator of the Christian faith in the life of the child is the parent.  In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God reveals His design for the propagation of His divine revelation to be from parent to child.  However, according to a survey compiled in 2008, over 50 percent of Christian parents in North America never or rarely spend time together in any consistent family devotions.  Furthermore, 40 percent stated that they seldom discuss matters of faith with their children.  What was most alarming about this survey is that 50 percent of the same group stated that they either never, rarely or occasionally prayed with their children.[1]

It is tempting when confronted with these statistics to assume that parents do not care about the spiritual formation of their children, which is not the case.  The problem is not apathy, but an inability to know where to begin.  As Timothy Paul Jones observes, “Many parents have no clue how to engage in their children’s Christian formation.”[2] Often such desperation is easily remedied by handing over the spiritual shepherding of their children to ministry professionals such as youth pastors and children’s workers in the church.  Authors Todd Hillard, Britt Beemer and Ken Hamm researched why young adults ages 20-30 were no longer involved in the local church.  Their findings were that “almost 90 percent of them were lost in middle school and high school…About 40 percent are leaving the Church during elementary and middle school years!”[3]  Included in the reasons for such an early age to exit the church, these authors point out the existence of age-segregation ministries such as Sunday school and youth groups which allow “parents to shrug off their responsibilities as the primary teachers, mentors, and pastors to their family.”[4]

So how can the pastors and teachers in the local church begin assisting parents in engaging their children’s spiritual growth without taking the job from their hands?  If the design of God is for parents to teach the next generation the ways of the Lord, then what can be done to encourage and enable parents to do so?  A part of the reason for such disconnects between what God intends and with what actually occurs is the fragmentation of today’s family.  As Patricia Ann Meyers reveals, “In 1930 the average child spent three to four hours [a day] with an adult member of the family. In the 1990s, that time shrunk to roughly fourteen minutes.”[5]  Couple this alarming statistic with what many local churches do by developing age-segregated ministries at every service, and today’s Christian families are hindered in their opportunity to pass their faith on to the next generation.  Local churches can assist parents in creating a culture of proactive discipleship with their children through at least one weekly intergenerational service that brings parents and youth together, allowing parents to know what their children learn about God and children to see what their parents truly believe about God.

When the family worships together, parents are more aware of what their children learn about God.  A weekly intergenerational service allows for teaching moments that may not arise otherwise.  A common opposition to such an inclusion is that since children and teens would not be able to understand the teaching in the main service, therefore, they should be taught a more age-appropriate lesson elsewhere.  However, according to Diana R. Garland, “Children will not understand everything, just as they do not understand all the adult conversation during a family supper, but they are learning.”[6]  Imagine the dinner setting.  When a child is lacking in understanding, what do they do?  They ask questions of their parents in order to gain the understanding they lack.

The same is true for an intergenerational service: learning occurs primarily through questioning.  During a service where the entire family worships together, the parent has the ability to check for understanding in his or her child immediately.  Such an opportunity would not exist if the family was consistently segregated by age.  For example, a father is able to watch as their child sings along with hymn or praise chorus and gently ask, “Do you know what that word means?” or “Do you know what this song is about?”  Or, during a sermon when a pastor uses the word justification, a mother can explain the meaning of this word to her child quietly, increasing the understanding of her child and without being a distraction to the rest of the congregation.

In other cases, an immediate discussion might be inadequate or out-of-place.  Parents may see that their child is having difficulty understanding a truth taught during the service and realize that a satisfactory explanation would be better to take place later.  In these instances, the parent now has an opportunity to initiate family discussions based on these truths and facilitate deeper learning in his/her children that may not have existed in the age-segregation model.  One parent interviewed for this paper stated how having his children with him during the service leads to deeper discussion later: “When I look at the notes my kids have taken during the service, it gives us a talking point, a place to start.”[7]  Regardless of the method or timing of clarifying instruction, an intergenerational service allows for parents to shift from being simply a spectator to being a purposeful instructor in the spiritual life of their children by simply being present when the instruction is received.

Also, when the family worships together, young people can be made more aware of what their parent(s) believe about God through observation.  Imagine a child who not only hears about the greatness of God but also witnesses his or her parent frequently worshipping Him as such.  Or consider a child who regularly observes his or her parent, with Bible in hand, listening attentively to Scripture as it is taught.  In answering the question as to the possible benefits of an intergenerational service, one parent responded:

One benefit that I think of often is the opportunity to see/hear some of our modern “heroes of the faith.” I wish my kids were with me the night that Karen [a missionary of the church] presented her orphan ministry in the evening service–her valor and tenderness brought me to tears that night. The power of God in her life brought me to tears that night. I wish they had been exposed to her and to me, wish they had seen how the Holy Spirit had worked in my heart and leaked out my eyes.[8]

Rather than removing the children at every church worship service, churches that employ a weekly intergenerational service allow for young people to witness their parents in worship and encountering of the Holy Spirit through the spoken Word of God.

Reggie Osbourne recounts an event which paints this truth clearly:

I turn to my left, where two smaller children rest, not yet ready to drink of the Lord’s cup. I hold up the empty cups and ask, “Do you remember what this represents, son?”

“Jesus’s blood?” he whispers back, with only the slightest hint of a question. I nod. He smiles. He has remembered Jesus too.

Which, of course, is the point. “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).  Too often we sit distracted and disinterested in our corporate gatherings. We sing with little enthusiasm. We pray with little heart. We treat the privileges of God’s family as if they were mere little obligations.  All the while, little eyes are watching us.

But when those eyes see in the adults around them a passion for Jesus that seems at once both unreasonable and yet remarkably genuine, then the doorway to their hearts might be cracked open by the Holy Spirit. A little light might begin to shine through as they struggle to understand this great power that holds sway over mom and dad and the rest of the grownups.[9]

An intergenerational service ingrained into the DNA of the local church brings parents and children together, allowing the parents to better know what their children learn about God and for the children to see what their parents truly believe about God.  The parents now become the chief facilitator of the spiritual development of their children through means of questioning and clarification.

Grace and peace,


[1] Timothy P. Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents to Make Disciples (Indianapolis, Ind.: Wesleyan Pub. House, 2011), 27-28.

[2] Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide, 34.

[3] Hillard, Todd; Britt Beemer; Ken Ham. Already Gone (Kindle Locations 313-316). Master Books. Kindle Edition.

[4] Hillard, Already Gone (Kindle Locations 506-508).

[5] Patricia Ann Meyers, Live, Learn, Pass It On! The Practical Benefits of Generations Growing Together in Faith (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 2006), 20.

[6] Diana S Richmond Garland, Family Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2012), 454.

[7] Dr. Shean Phillips, interview by author, Winston-Salem, NC, August 11, 2016.

[8] Mark Jones, email message to the author, August 11, 2016.

[9] Osbourne II, Reggie. “Little Eyes Are Watching in Worship.” Desiring God,, (accessed June 12, 2016).



FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER: Why Intergenerational Services are Good for the Local Church (Part 1).

Imagine the scene: Excited parents bringing their children[1] to the newly-famous Rabbi.  News about His authoritative teachings and wondrous works have been widely circulated.  These parents have come to have this Rabbi lay His hands on their children, conveying God’s blessing on their lives both now and in the years to come.[2]  They come with anticipation and hope; yet their hope is dashed when His disciples refuse to allow the children near him.  Scolding the parents, the disciples display the ancient cultural concept that children were insignificant and should not take up the time of important people.[3]  But the Rabbi does something shocking: He rebukes His disciples for their refusal to allow the children in His presence.  Furthermore, He takes time with the children, blessing them and showing earnest concern for them as important beings.

The preceding story, found in Mark 10:13-16, is one of the clearest descriptions of Jesus’ concern for young people.  Rather than bow to cultural norms regarding children as lower class citizens of the nation, Jesus shows genuine concern for them and righteous anger directed at those who wish to prevent them from His presence.  Furthermore, Jesus’ choice of words in His rebuke to His disciples is telling.  In the Greek language, Jesus’ commands of “let the children come to me” and “do not hinder them” is better translated “start allowing the children to come to me” and “stop preventing them from coming to me.”[4]  Jesus’ vocabulary reveals His intention for the disciples to cast away from their minds the culturally-accepted treatment of excluding children in favor of an inclusive attitude that welcomes them in their presence.

Fast-forward nearly 2000 years and a different model can be found in most local churches.  Children and youth are excluded from the congregation at nearly every scheduled assembly.  Relegated to “children’s church”, youth group, or a similar assembly, children and teens are consistently segregated from the rest of the churchgoers.  Such age-segregation evident in local churches today produces serious problems which the churches should strategically solve through scheduling a weekly intergenerational service[5] to allow for parental leadership in the discipleship of their children, include children and teens in the life of the church community, and allow for the church body as a whole to benefit from mutual edification from the various age groups.

In the following series of posts we will discuss the why and how of such services.  We may not completely agree on each issue; however, the dialogue to be had regarding this will be extremely helpful in attempting to answer the question of what exactly is the relationship of the church and family.

Grace and peace,


[1] The word used here for children, paidia, refers to those ranging from babies to preteens.  John D. Grassmick,“Mark.”, In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. Logos Bible Software.

[2]Grassmick, John D. “Mark.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. Logos Bible Software.

[3] Lemke, Steve W. “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies.” In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007. Logos Bible Software.

[4] Grassmick, John D. “Mark.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. Logos Bible Software.

[5] The specifics of such a service relies heavily on the existing format of the existing church meetings.  For example, this type of service may best occur during the Sunday evening service.  However, for churches that do not meet on Sunday evenings, other options should be considered.

Creation Video

Here’s the video Pastor Brian showed tonight. Click here for the video.