Intergenerational worship: definitions
There is currently a lot of discussion about intergenerational worship (Intergen) and how we might introduce it in our churches.
But what is intergenerational worship and how does it differ from other forms of all age worship?
These definitions are based on A Gospel for All Ages (2022) by David Csinos and Intergenerational Christian Formation (2012) by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross.
People of all ages are present in the same worship space but relationships across age groups may not really exist.
A church might offer activity packs for children to use during worship. While these could be on the same theme as the adult service, there is little or no interaction between children and adults - the children are colouring a picture of Zaccheus up a tree while the adults listen to an adult sermon.
Children's areas would also come under this definition. Children and adults may both be worshipping - but not in an intergenerational way.
People of all ages are together in the same space and there are some relationships across the generations.
These may be during the chat at coffee time or through working together on a project - for example we used to bake biscuits that were sold at coffee time to make money for Tear Fund and we once had teens and adults sleeping rough in January to raise money for the local churches' homeless project.
People of all ages are present, interacting and worshipping together.
Everyone is seen as equally valid, and each contribution is valued for itself.
The worship does not bounce between "something for the adults" and "something for the children" but is presented in such a way that it can be accessed by everyone in different ways and at different levels.
Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross (Intergenerational Christian Formation) consider that churches need to be intentional about being intergenerational in fostering interactive and meaningful relationships between the generations.
This summer I told the story of Psalm 23 using the Out of the Box materials to a mixed group aged from 11 months to eighty three, including a couple of teenagers. (Out of the Box)
At the end I cleared the sand and asked "What will there be in the house of the Lord, where you will live forever?" The responses came from all ages and included "Cats" "Water" "People" and "Something to be creative with". The five year old said: "We need to put the heart in to show that when people come in, God is close to them."
Other examples of intergenerational worship could include a prayer tree where both children and adults write/draw and share prayers; lighting candles during the creed; passing the light from one to another during Pentecost; prayer stations.
Multi generational worship and cross generational worship are not wrong; they could be the right thing for a particular church at a particular time - it all depends on context.
A Gospel for All Ages: Teaching and Preaching with the Whole Church
David Csinos (2022). Published by Fortress Press ISBN: 9781506473949
Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship
Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross (2012). Published by Intervarsity Press (IVP) ISBN: 9780830839810
Resources that could be used for Intergenerational Worship
Prayer in worship: different ways to pray together
Confession and Creed: Suggestions for making these elements of the service intergenerational
Prayer Stations: using prayer stations in intergenerational worship (adults as well as children can take part in the play activities! )
Four questions: Four questions to think about when planning worship
A year with Penelope: Even babies can participate in intergenerational worship