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.


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