You can find on this page content that was delivered by the Gen2 Team to the Clergy of Peterborough Diocese at the Bishop’s Study Day on November 14th 2019 and on Nov 15th 2018.
2019 TED-style talk:
All Age or Inter-generational?
Practical ideas for growing meaningful, inclusive and welcoming worship together.
One of the big conundrums of 21st Century church is how do we create meaningful worship that works for people of different ages?
I hope we all know that church should be for everyone whatever their age. I’d like to think that we do know that it’s a Biblical ideal to be a family together made up of equal parts.
But how do we make it work, practically – is it really possible to pull off Inter-generational worship? Do I have the magic bullet?
Of course not, but I hope that I can offer some seeds of hope and perhaps encouragement.
“Growing” implies gradual change so I believe small steps are good, and can make a huge difference in the end… think mustard seeds…
But even small changes don’t happen by accident. We have to mean to be inter-generational and inclusive and welcoming not just hope it happens by osmosis.
The words “practical ideas” are in my title – so that’s what I will try to give you, I promise…and I hope that there is something here that’s genuinely useful to you. There may be lots here you’ve heard or tried before but I hope there may be something new worth giving a go.
So here are 10 thoughts on how to try being meaningfully inter-generational, inclusive and welcoming:
- Find ways to get people to talk to each other and actually listen – and not to make assumptions, especially not based on age… (just because someone is young it doesn’t mean they don’t like choral music. You do know that the new “old people music” is “rock music” with guitars and drums?)
Take some time out of your service or at an event or over coffee to do some listening exercises. The Learn to Listen website is a great resource for imaginative ways to listen.
For example, if you want to get some quick fire responses to ideas from an all age group, try Tops & Pants. Create cut out paper tops and pairs of pants and give one of each to everyone. Say an idea and they hold up a top if they think it’s a “top” idea or the pants if they think its “pants”. Loads more simple and user-friendly ideas for listening on there.
- All traditions can be inter-generational – take what is at the heart of your church and adapt if for a wider group rather than feeling that you have to change the personality of your church entirely. What are the very best and most precious things about your church tradition that you might want to pass onto to future generations…? Discuss and pare down… and get people to explain why!
- Learning styles – try dividing by learning style not age eg listening to a sermon, being active, space to think/read/be quiet, art/crafts. It takes out the sense of “sending away the children” doesn’t patronise and gives choice to everyone. If they complain about your sermon, you can say, well, you could have gone to active learning instead!
- Shared stories – find as many ways as you can to share stories between generations. Around Remembrance, at events for the elderly, at Toddler groups, in schools. At a recent Holiday at Home for the elderly the theme was Cruising, so a young person sent a video from a cruise he was on with his family with a guided tour of the ship to be shown at the event.
During a sermon/peace slot play a signature bingo game – give out sheets with boxes with statements in and spaces for signatures by each. Everyone then has to find someone different in each category. For example – find someone who can speak more than one language or find someone who had food delivered by horse and cart or find someone who wore homemade clothes as a child… stories will flow!
Old tech stories/demos (see this Guardian article for a great example of how this could work) – can young people use a map or an alarm clock or an encyclopedia or an old-style telephone? Maybe not – but they can perhaps help older people with new tech and online safety.
Questions to ask to encourage storytelling.
For a younger generation to ask of an older generation
What was your favourite game to play or activity you liked doing when you were my age?
What’s your favourite Bible story and why?
Tell me what Christmas was like for you when you were my age?
Tell me the story of how you came to be in this church?
What’s the most exciting place you’ve ever visited? Tell me a story about what happened there?
For an older generation to ask of a younger generation, (some of them could be very similar)
What’s your favourite food?
What was your favourite thing about your last birthday?
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go and why?
Do you know any stories about Jesus? Tell me your favourite.
Come up with your own…
- Equality of involvement – sharing roles inter-generationally. Where can you look at genuine roles that need filling and ask a family group or a young person or a child to do it? Be prepared for perhaps more flakiness than the older generation but be prepared to make that sacrifice and push young people/families to step up and show commitment. With Millennials in particular – don’t wait to ask them to join in. If you get a twenty-something through the door ask them to join in with something straight away – generally, they want to belong.
- Welcome/belonging – Intergen pairings on the door help make everyone feel welcome.
Encourage general congregation to chat to people once they have arrived and are sat down – not just on arrival. There have been times when I’ve been visiting churches I’ve felt like getting up and going when I’ve sat like a lemon while everyone else is chatting with their friends.
Providing drinks/food on arrival helps to get over that.
Or give an activity to do or something decent to read (not just the notices) – we’re not all extroverts but most people want to feel like they are doing something appropriate.
Or if you are aiming for a calm, prayerful atmosphere (perfectly possible for an inter-generational service), play calming music and have instructions on a screen or sheet that suggest things to look at or pray for.
Knowing names is really important for belonging – get some of the young people to make a video of people saying their names (make sure they add subtitles!), show it before/after services and update regularly with new people.
Or create a book or board with faces and names – not just those with special jobs.
Show a slideshow of images of people – a lovely idea from a local church to ask a baptism family to supply some photos of the baby to show before a Baptism service.
If you have a What’s App group or Facebook page sign people up there and then.
- Worship Mentors – encourage young people to sit with older “mentors” who can explain what’s happening in service, discuss afterwards, follow up for prayer. I’ve seen some lovely examples of “Grandparenting”. I’ve also seen an example of a youth group transition from Sunday Club to adult service by giving them “buddies” not just expecting them to know what to do.
Where you have any volunteers going into schools, they are brilliant bridge builders to those who may be visiting church and not know anything. I’ve observed the looks on faces as a family come into a church looking anxious and uncomfortable, they see someone they have got to know from an after school club or toddler group and the change in expression is startling!
- Celebrate together – everything and anything, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements. All ages, not just children – eg an adult marathon runner or a child’s swimming badge. Use food and drink to celebrate too!
- Making allowances – where you can be generous about allowing young people to play with gadgets, books, toys – encourage them to feel comfortable and maybe they will stay. Try providing children’s activities at the front of church, rather than tucked away at the back – really inclusive.
- Be visual
Use film to reach all ages, watch and discuss together – lots of good all age appropriate stuff with great links to being inter-generational mostly from Pixar eg Coco, Up, Inside Out, Finding Nemo… The Pixar short called “La Luna” is a very good discussion starter, if a bit whimsical.
Use art to create together big aides to worship, or displays for outside the building eg altar frontals where each person sews on a button, or adds their handprint or decorates a butterfly etc. There are so many ideas for communal art projects – such as making ceramic poppies for Remembrance. Pinterest is a great resource.
- Weave old and new together –
spraying water of blessing all over the congregation,
getting smallest children to say last blessing
make traditional liturgies active/illustrate with images
use simple, interactive versions of liturgies where you can (See downloadable Grandparents Resource below)
Put liturgy and tech together in creative ways eg selfie prayer: the Leader (of whatever age..) takes a selfie of themselves with their back to the congregation and tries to get everyone in behind them. Turns back round and holding the phone/camera up says:
Father God, as we gather today to worship you, I give you “us” as an offering of our praise today. We come to you with our quirkiness, our differences, our smiles and our worried frowns, our skin of different hues and textures, our hands that have helped or hurt, our lips that have shouted, whispered, sung or sworn and our hearts that are here to meet with you today.
Take us as we are – your rag-bag, mish-mash, motley crew, chosen by you, redeemed by your son Jesus and empowered by your Holy Spirit, Amen
(the leader could pledge to pray for the congregation using the selfie through the week and could ask for permission to share on a church website or social media)
Keep talking about it and make it normal to be inter-generational.
Preach on it, talk about it during the notices, at PCC, make changes with meaning so people understand why – back it up with Biblical principles. And make sure everyone is included in making decisions…
I have some sermon notes and small group Bible study plans on the theme that you are welcome to use.
My hope and vision is for all our worship to be inter-generational – but it’s a culture change that takes time and sometimes hearts and minds need to be won over. And that’s your job!
The programme for the Day – click on a highlighted link to go to more information, transcripts, prayers, links, resources, background reading etc.
Clergy Study Day
15th November 2018
10:00 Opening Eucharist
11:00 Introduction to the Day
11:15 Welcoming Children and Young People
12:00 Gen2 Children & Youth Ministry Overview
13:45 Short talks
Including Children & Young People
Faith at Home
Leadership & Vocation
Presence, and Practice
15:00 Discussion/ Action Points/Feedback
15:30 Bishop Donald Closing Address
15:50 Closing Worship