Bridging the Generation Gap in the Church

Tuesday Re-mix – 

So much of the conflict I see in churches today falls into a general category I call “Generational Issues”.  I don’t hold myself out as an expert in the social changes ushered in by each of the last few generations, but I think any of you would agree that the various generations represented in the American church today are radically different from one to the next in terms of how they communicate, how they form and maintain relationships, and how they worship.  Obviously, there are no clear, bright lines of division.  Moreover, there are plenty of obvious exceptions to the prevailing preferences of generations (i.e., not all senior citizens prefer traditional church music to contemporary, etc.).  But the youngest adult generations in the church are approaching God and the church so very differently than their grandparents did that it is bound to raise some difficult issues for us all to work through.

But the problem is never as simple as sitting down and figuring out who is right and who is wrong.  Oh how much easier my job would be if it were that simple!  No, the bigger challenge by far is getting each side of a generational issue to even care much about the other side.  The problem in many (most?) of our churches, it seems to me, is the lack of relationship between and among the generations.

I see it often.  A church begins to have serious worship style conflict, so they call someone (me) in to help them work through it.  When I ask one side to articulate the fears and motives of the other side, they cannot even come close.  They cannot do that, because they are not even trying to understand the fears and motives of the other side.  All they can see is the conduct, and they interpret that as “they just don’t care about us”.  But if I were to ask them if they are a friendly church, they would all agree, “Oh yes!  It’s nothing like that!  Of course we are friendly.  We don’t have any problems like that around here!”

You can see that, where there are no genuine relationships between generations in a church, as soon as an issue comes along that has generational overtones (like worship music), the lines will draw quickly and clearly.  It is not because the relationships are broken.  It is because the relationships were not there in the first place!

So, the challenge is this: how do we in the church create friendships across generational lines?  How can we be more intentional about service projects and ministry opportunities that have multiple generations working side by side?  How can we strategically structure opportunities for mentoring relationships between our older folks and our younger folks?  How can we create an environment where generations are taking the time to learn one another’s “languages” and games and stories and struggles?

These are serious questions.  I would love to hear from you on this subject!  Would you use the comment feature below and tell me some creative ways your church has found to forge better relationships between generations?   Please!

© Blake Coffee
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6 responses to “Bridging the Generation Gap in the Church”

  1. Our church has contemporary music and our worship team plays songs that are just like the ones on a radio station.They are gifted in ability and they present it as an offering to God, we have all ages in our services mostly the 30’s-40’s era my husband and I are in our mid 50’s and we love the music. We have heard that some people complain that it is loud. I suppose when one has guitars, drums, etc it might be loud but it is all about heart attitude, not necessarily pleasing people. We do have some 70’s and 80’s in our service and they love the upbeat music. Sometimes my husband and I will visit other churchs just to see the difference and we always come back to ours, there is a sense of purpose in every service.It is good.

  2. Philippians 2:7 NIV
    but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

    Things would probably go a lot better in the body if we all learned the humility of a servant and follow the Lord’s example who made himself nothing for the sake of His work. Many issues can be resolved if we all took on the nature of a servant. Many problems arise when we seek justice instead of peace. The Kingdom is about peace. We need to learn and teach turning the other cheek.

  3. 1 Peter 5:5 NIV
    Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

    1 Timothy 5:1 NIV
    Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,

    Titus 2:2 NIV
    Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

  4. I’m 25 years old and would take meditative hymns over contemporary concerts any day. (This seems to me to be a growing trend…) I think your point is right on target – I have often felt that churches need to offer more opportunities for inter-generational relationships. All age groups have encouragement and perspective to offer. Perhaps small groups that meet throughout the week being comprised of a variety of generations?

  5. Maryland Girl Avatar
    Maryland Girl

    One thing my Church does every year is the Young Adults (College & Career) and Teens work together to put on a Banquet for our Senior Citizens. I’m 21 and not really involved with the Young Adults ministry mostly because I spend that time involved in Children’s Ministry but this is one thing I’m going to be a part of because I think this is a practical way of showing what it looks like to be the Body of Christ serving one another. On the “side of the young” when we learn to honor or elders in practical ways like this, we come one step closer to enabling relationships and growth opportunities for everybody in the church.

  6. I enjoy contemporary music, but I object to being performed for, rather than led in worship. I wish more worship leaders knew the subtle difference.