May 22, 2017
MULTIgenerational or INTERgenerational Churches?
Zach Yentzer provides a good contrast of multigenerational churches and intergenerational churches. Which best describes yours?
Editor’s note: Zach is a compassionate thinker with a heart to see churches not just “reaching” the next generation on campuses, but to see them fully engaged and integrated in all facets of the church’s mission and ministry. His book Creative: Designing Churches that Engage Generations Together is for helping leaders like the Collegiate Collective audience grow in their abilities to disciple and empower college students to lead alongside all generations in the local church. – Chase
I grew up with this little phrase from my dad ringing in my ears: “words mean things.”
When it comes to the generations in your church, this is especially true.
A MULTIgenerational church is NOT an INTERgenerational one.
In a MULTIgenerational church, the generations can show up on the same day and in the same place, can all be in the attendance rolls and partner files, but not be interrelated or interconnected in life or experience.
This is the illusion of a multigenerational church. What’s underneath may show some deep needs to meet, and obstacles to overcome.
Here are just a few of those:
- Older generations have the money and resources to keep the lights on, so their preferences, advice, and past experiences hold more weight in the direction of the church.
- Younger generations are “the future,” so massive shifts in worship, style, look, and structure of the church are risked to head towards that future.
- Older individuals in leadership create programs and resources FOR, not WITH, younger generations.
- Younger generations don’t feel listened to, valued, or heard.
- Separate church and worship experiences are created, so each generation can be in their comfort zone more often.
- Small group-based multigenerational churches are sometimes life-stage oriented, separating needed wisdom from needed energy.
In an INTERgenerational church, the opposite of the above are true.
- Older and younger generations are “in the trenches together” – taking time to be together consistently and talk about difficult church and cultural topics from their different generational perspectives. Emphasis is not on who’s “right,” or “experience,” but a genuine desire to learn, discover, and come to useful agreement.
- This communication is not accidental or inconsistent or random, but facilitated intentionally and prioritized by church leadership.
- Younger generations feel like they have a clear pipeline for communicating ideas and feedback to older and leadership figures. But they are humble and honoring of older generations while doing it.
- Older generations don’t feel like they have all the answers or all the best ideas, but put themselves in a posture to learn relationally with younger generations.
- The Sunday morning experience is a shared one. With loving and humble intergenerational relationship as the fuel, younger generations honor the traditions and heritage of older generations in some style and worship, while older generations get excited about fresh (and spiritually healthy) worship and ministry expressions.
- Elder generations are not something to be moved on from, and younger generations are not something to be moved towards – the necessity for all to serve and minister together, and to be honored by the other as Christ loves all His church, is not just said and believed, but also practiced.
- Life of the church and life Monday-through-Saturday is a shared generational experience. Life-stage ministry (although it is necessary and helpful in some circumstances!) gives way to the gritty storytelling, mentorship, and common tears and joys that can only come when all life stages are in the same space. This happens in services, small groups, and vocational and personal mentorship.
- Successful church intergenerational relationships is driven by intergenerational relationships Monday-through-Saturday.
Does this match your current or past experience? What would you add to either list?