Several months ago, the members of my church completed a survey dealing with the identity, strengths, weaknesses, and vision of our fellowship. Although the vast majority of responses concerning our worship services were positive, one suggestion for improvement cropped up several times: our folks would like to see more young people involved in leading worship, and they would like to see us move toward offering a truly multi-generational worship service each Sunday morning.
To be honest, these ideas have been on my mind as well. Most of our congregation consists of adults that are fifty years of age and older. And, while we certainly have younger people and families that regularly attend our church, we want to see this age group grow significantly in the coming years.
Some of our folks want to see a multi-generational worship service because they feel it will bring in younger people. But, other members of our congregation want a multi-generational worship service because they know it is the Biblical thing to do. After all, the book of Psalms is full of exhortations concerning multi-generational worship. One often quoted example is Psalm 71:18 (KJV): “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”
So, my challenge has been figuring out how to move our worship services in a Biblically modeled, multi-generational direction. I can’t say I’ve come up with all the answers yet, but here are some thoughts I have been mulling over in my head:
1) In recent months, I have noticed myself becoming a student of worship. Sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? However, I mean it very seriously. I have more music degrees than any one person could possibly need, but, on the flip side of the coin, I never went to seminary and never enrolled in any college classes dealing with worship. So, in my 40’s, I have become a student of worship. Nowadays, there are innumerable podcasts, books, and websites that contain ample amounts of information regarding Biblical worship. Your friends in ministry are also a great resource. And, let’s not forget the ultimate resource: the Bible itself. It seems to me that the best way to begin impacting the worship culture at your church is to make sure that you and your fellow worship leaders have a good, accurate foundation regarding the theology of worship.
2) As a church body, don’t be afraid to “be yourself.” At my church, I have often wondered if we should just bite the bullet and go “all contemporary.” But, I know in my heart that “all contemporary” is simply not the personality of our church. And, frankly, neither is it my personality. (After all, I spend my life writing and editing traditional choral music for goodness sakes!) I am afraid that if I tried to steer our church into an entirely contemporary worship service, it would feel disingenuous and insincere. And, the folks participating in our worship services would undoubtedly feel that insincerity as well. We should never forget that non-believers are attracted to the body of Christ when they see believers worshipping in spirit and truth.
3) Start simple. Try doing some obvious, easily achievable things first. Rome wasn’t built in a day. For example, I have now implanted multi-generational praise teams at my church. In the past, my teams have always consisted of adults in their 40’s and above. But, we have teenagers in our church that can really sing! So, how do we best utilize their abilities?
My first thought was to create a new praise team comprised of only teenagers. But, then I thought to myself, “Why in the world would I do that, and miss such a golden opportunity?” Instead, I have assigned one teenager to each of my existing teams. Not only does this immediately create a multi-generational experience for all involved, but it also gives an opportunity for the older folks on the team to mentor the younger member.
I have also recently started an orchestra at our church. This has been great fun for me, as I spend a great deal of my time writing music for instrumental ensembles. But, the real reason was for the multi-generational opportunities it would provide. Of course, all age groups are welcome to play, but I knew that the first folks to sign up would be the junior and high school students in our congregation that play in school ensembles. They perform every few months or so, and they are always well received by our congregation.
As I mentioned earlier, these are just a few thoughts from me as I begin this process. In coming months, I will report back and let you know how things are progressing. In the meantime, have a great summer, and be blessed!
A few choir anthems that contain opportunities for multi-generational worship: