Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Inter-generational Worship

I love the church. I love it in all its forms, shapes, sizes, colors, strengths, and weaknesses. The church is the beautiful Bride of Christ.  But one of the greatest frustrations I have with the church-at-large is our penchant for splitting the family. Oh, I get it - every age/grade has its own Sunday school class so you can customize a lesson to give it more impact. From a learning perspective, it's quite logical. But from a family perspective, it's tough to split everyone up, especially when there are SO MANY church events to be a part of - worship services, Bible studies, VBS, etc. I don't get to see my kids when I'm at work or they're at school, so it makes it that much harder to head out for a church event knowing we are going to be divided. I would love to see a different paradigm be incorporated into our worship services. I'm talking about inter-generational worship services, or multi-generational worship services. Rather than having Children's Church, a Youth Service, a Young Adult Service, what if we just had a family service?

Oh, I believe that most churches would absolutely say that children are welcome to sit in the service, but perhaps those same people have never felt the eyes burning into the back of your head as your child with extra needs is (a little too loudly) asking questions about the lights, the bulletins, the song, the pastor, and everything else that distracts him. What if we could come up with a worship setting that was as comfortable for kids as it is for adults (wait, are those hard pews actually comfortable?). What if the sermon was written in such a way that children found it interesting, too (adults, are you listening to the sermons, I mean really listening? You should be!), and the music was singable and enjoyable by all ages? What if we truly created a worship setting where everyone was truly welcomed - and not just those that can comfortable sit and listen for an hour to an hour and a half? What would that look like?

Musically, the words would need to be simpler, with easier, more memorable melodies and less complex rhythm, but the style could be anything that suits the community. Seating arrangements might be better served as a table and chairs so children and adults could take notes or doodle while they are listening (adults learn by doodling just as much as kids!). Chairs that are made with a little bit of give for rocking would go along way to help wiggly ones enjoy staying in their seats. Maybe having several smaller sets of speakers throughout the room, putting out less volume, would be more listenable than one large set of speakers blasting from the front. Perhaps some comfy seating as well, a couple of toys on a blanket on the floor. And of course, coffee. Everyone is always more comfortable with coffee.

I don't know how we got to our current evangelical worship format, but I don't think it necessarily looks like the New Testament church did, where they met together, ate together, worked together, shared together. But I think we can do a little better to create multi-generational worship services with our current formats without a radical shift that would upset the proverbial or perhaps rotten, apple cart. What could we do differently this week to make our service, our music, and our time together more accessible to families? How would your planning change if you knew you were focused on families rather than adults? What would your music sound like? How can we bring all of the generations together to do worship as a community united?

I would love to hear your stories of how you made your church worship setting more family friendly... Please share in the comments and feel free to link to your church or worship center.

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