When I was young, my family went to church together every Sunday. Since it was a small congregation, my siblings and I often didn’t have a Sunday school class to go to. So, I spent a lot of my youth in worship services with my siblings, parents and grandparents.
I was usually bored in church. But occasionally I got to do cool things in worship like direct a children’s Christmas pageant I wrote (it was really bad) and invite a couple of long-haired, guitar-playing friends to perform Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ballads (it was the 1970’s). I imagine the adults in the congregation were puzzled by my unique contributions to worship. But no one ever said an unkind word. I grew to love worship because I was able to express myself with the support of a loving, flexible community.
When I moved away from home, I stopped going to church. Many years later, as I was planning my wedding, I decided it was time to go back to church. That surprised me, but it felt right. Getting married had something to do with the impulse to reconnect. But on a deeper level, I missed being part of a faith community. And I missed the rituals of worship. So, I looked for – and found – a church where all ages worshipped together. I felt right at home.
My experience of intergenerational worship as a youth helped me feel closer to God. And I suspect that experience also led me back to church. As an adult, I still love a worship service where wiggly children and reluctant teens are mixed in with parents and grandparents and everyone else. Worship is more lively (and often more unpredictable) when everyone is together. And, for me, that’s what church is, the whole messy family of God coming together to offer ourselves to God just as we are.
Intergenerational worship allows the spirit of God to show itself in new and surprising ways. Good intergenerational worship incorporates entry points for children and teens to participate in authentic ways. Music, movement, visuals, a children’s sermon, prayers, and leadership roles are some of the entry points which create a sense of welcome and belonging for children and teens.
But intergenerational worship isn’t just for the benefit of children and teenagers. Youth are very capable of articulating their own vision of God that’s different from an adult perspective. And it’s a perspective that we, as adults, need to hear.
We need the presence of our youth in worship to remind us that God is most fully present when all of the people of God are together.
Here at LOPC, we have intergenerational worship services on specials Sundays throughout the year. At these services, the whole community enjoys the rich diversity that each generation brings to the worship experience. Check out our most recent intergenerational worship services by clicking on the links below:
Confirmation Sunday (March 19, 2017)
Palm Sunday (April 9, 2017)