It’s no secret that America is aging. The number of people 65 years of age and older will double by 2050 (New York Times). Those demographic changes will mean a lot for American society.
Those same changes will also mean a lot for American churches, who are also in the midst of an aging population. As the country—and its churches and other institutions—age, the internal dynamics of organizations will change. That means numerous challenges abound.
The one asset the church has that no other institution possesses is its representation of the body of Christ on earth. And with such an asset, the church is in the unique position to demonstrate the beauty of God’s creation not only for its congregants but also for the world.
One way this manifests itself is through generations. Some churches are relatively young, reaching mainly young, urban professionals. Other churches tend to attract an older cohort. Regardless of the church and its context, one way to strengthen the church is to find ways to combine generations into one cohesive body—making it stronger.
The key is to find ways to promote the intergenerational nature of your congregation.
Here’s what an intergenerational church can look like:
1. Leadership is represented by people of all ages. There is no set paradigm for how this looks. It’s just one of those things where you know it works when you see and experience it. But a truly intergenerational church will include pastors, leaders, musicians and volunteers from all walks of life and age groups. Not just older folks in leadership and younger folks leading the worship team.
2. The church provides opportunities to grow relationships with people from various age groups. Sunday morning worship is the best time for a congregation to come together as a community. But sometimes even Sunday mornings can be split into Traditional and Contemporary worship services, where age groups tend to feel more comfortable with one as opposed to another. Find opportunities to worship and break bread together as an intergenerational community of God.
3. The church provides activities that cater to all people. Lots of churches have small groups that are segmented based on age or life stage: young adults, young marrieds, adult Bible study, youth groups, retired, etc. While these groups tend to enjoy activities on their own, it’s also important to have all-church events. These events should attempt to encompass the interests of every age group. They are also great opportunities for the 25-year-old tech entrepreneur to engage with the 65-year-old recently retired plumber.
4. Messages from the pulpit—and examples in the life of the church—should communicate the blessings of an intergenerational community. We are all the body of Christ represented in our own unique ways. A congregation is its strongest and most ready to impact its world for Christ when all its members feel encouraged, embodied and emboldened.
These are just a few ideas on the road to a truly intergenerational community. Think, pray and discuss other ways for your church to encompass what it means to become dynamically intergenerational!
Sign up for our newsletter to get more just like it delivered directly to your inbox!