Churches intentionally seek to bridge the generation gap - Word&Way

Churches intentionally seek to bridge the generation gap

While many congregations — particularly older, established churches — have members from several generations, often one generation dominates either in leadership or in numbers. But many churches intentionally look for ways to bridge generation gaps because they value the contributions each generation offers and what each can learn from the other.

First Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit seeks to be intentionally intergenerational. Randy Buffington, minister of music, pairs young musicians with older ones in the church orchestra, such as 94-year-old trombonist Bob Paul with 12-year-old Shae Buffington.

Established in 1780, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., includes several generations. Under the direction of Children’s Minister Candi Brown, the congregation intentionally is thinking of new ways to bridge generation gaps, particularly with its youngest.

Brown has led the church to develop an Advent experience for children, parents and grandparents. The church uses children and youth occasionally during Sunday morning worship to read Scripture, lead in prayer or share a personal testimony about an event or activity. The children’s choir and handbell choir also perform sometimes.

Sunday morning worship attendees may be greeted by 11-year-old Jacob Lindsey with a heart for usher ministry. Standing with his mentor, an adult usher, he usually distributes an activity bulletin to children. Occasionally, the two ushers trade duties and Jacob gets to hand out the adult worship bulletin.

The children’s minister particularly is excited about a new kid-friendly, intergenerational worship service. To be offered monthly, First Family Praise begins May 6, with praise music, a children’s message and a testimony or short message for adults. Activities that reflect the evening’s theme will be offered after the service.

“In some ways, we are targeting families and children to encourage them to praise and worship together, but we are also hoping that singles and older adults who want to enjoy a time of fellowship and praise will also join us,” Brown said.

Greg Bowman, minister of youth at First Baptist Church in Duncanville, is leading young people intentionally to connect with older generations. Two triggers moved him to that decision—teens and senior adults.

He had been reading about crossing generations, and then several senior adults began to ask him how they could get to know youth. Meanwhile, teens also were showing interest. The high school boys’ Sunday school class made cards during their Valentine’s Day party and took them to the church’s widows.

Students hosted a senior adult party with a variety of table games and drew closer to their parents. To help them get ready for the event, parents taught their students how to play some old domino games. “Most of our students didn’t know how to play Chicken Foot,” Bowman said, laughing.

Youth minister through a Kids’ Club to children in a nearby apartment complex. They participate in worship services, particularly on Sunday evening. Bowman plans to become more intentional in the next couple of years, he said.

Leaders at First Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, Mo., encourage prayer partnerships between senior adults and children. Many of the pairs that formed in April 2010 still meet together weekly for prayer and fellowship.

Pastor Blake McKinney also is generationally intentional in his sermons. “I’m likely to have illustrations from gardening and chemistry tests in the same message,” he said.

First Baptist’s Minister of Worship/Arts Randy Buffington pairs seasoned performers in the church’s orchestra with middle school musicians to help young players learn and to foster intergenerational ties. The orchestra’s oldest member, 94-year-old Bob Paul, mentors Buffington’s 12-year-old daughter, Shae.