How to build a multigenerational church

November 9, 2020

Over the last few weeks at Trinity, we’ve been talking about some of the areas we want to strive for as a church. We’re looking to be gospel-focused, transformational, multigenerational, multicultural, and a church that plants churches. Today we’re looking at being multigenerational.

I believe there are two questions we need to be asking:

  • Why do we need to strive to be a multigenerational church?

  • How do we cultivate a multigenerational mindset?

Why do we need to strive to be a multigenerational church?

As a church, I’m not sure this is something we need much convincing of…but here are a three reasons:

REASON ONE: Many of us have experienced the benefit of multigenerational relationships. If you haven’t, talk to me (davebetts@trinityreddeer.ca) and I’ll connect you with someone in a different generation. It’s so worth it.

REASON TWO: Because the Bible calls us to multigenerational community. For the sake of time and space, I’ll point you to the passages without explanation, but to be honest, I don’t think they need a lot of explaining!

Luke 18:15-17; Ephesians 6:1-4; Proverbs 22:6; Acts 2:14-18; Titus 2:1-5; 1 Tim. 4:12.

And of course, we see a Bible filled with genealogies and a Trinitarian God presenting himself to humanity in generational language (The Father and the Son). We could go on, but as I mentioned, I don’t think we need much convincing here. The Bible calls us to be multigenerational.

REASON THREE: Because Red Deer is multigenerational. This table is taken from the official Red Deer website.

Notice the demographic split. It turns out that Red Deer is pretty evenly split across the ages. If we are to accurately reflect the city we are seeking to serve, surely we should consist of a similarly broad demographic as well!

As a church, we are a predominantly older church community. So as we look at how we become multigenerational, we’ll focus on reaching younger age groups…but please know this:

It is not because younger believers are more important; it is because we want to reach the generations that are underrepresented in our community.

So how do we become a multigenerational church?

I believe there are two responses to this question:

STEP ONE: We nurture an environment that is welcoming to all generations.

In other words, there are some practical steps we can take.

  • We can love people well. My prayer is that we would be the most welcoming place in the entire city of Red Deer. Let’s strive for that!

  • We can serve our kids well. We don’t have a kids ministry yet – there is a practical reality that this makes Trinity a hard church for young families. But with your help, we could. If you would be willing to step up to the plate and help us serve our children well, let me know. I would be overjoyed to hear from you! Let’s serve our kids well!

  • We can sing contemporary songs. As a former worship pastor, this is a perennial debate: do we sing old songs or new songs. Often, older church members love the golden oldies, while the younger members love the new ones. I believe the answer is simple: YES! We maintain a healthy balance between old and new, recognizing that young people might not know the oldies, but recognizing there’s something special about singing songs with history and familiarity. It’s all about balance.

STEP TWO: We recognize that while Biblical truth doesn’t change, culture does.

In other words, we will never compromise on the truth of the word of God, even when culture pulls in another direction. However, we must recognize that outside of doctrine, there are lots of areas of church that are cultural, not Biblical (for example, the style of music we sing; how we start and end our meetings, etc.). Every nation and every generation has a different culture. Rather than be critical, our job is to recognize that there are differences, and where appropriate bridge the divide.

But it goes further than that.

Younger generations (particularly Gen Y and Gen Z) are growing up in unprecedented times. They are more digitally connected and yet less socially connected than ever before. In fact, one social scientist says that these generations are “on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.” (in Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport). Western secular culture is pulling in a more individualistic direction with every passing year, and, when coupled with social media and rising levels of depression and anxiety, I propose that our response as the global church is beginning to miss the mark.

The Church has aimed to reach younger generations by being flashy, cool, and professional. But if younger generations want that, they can find it online in a heartbeat. What they can’t find is relationship. I truly believe with all my heart that young people are not looking for flashy any more; they’re looking for authentic. Every young person I’ve spoken to has told me the same thing. That’s a huge shift in the evangelistic mindset of the last twenty years.

So what does that mean for us?

We are called to be multigenerational. And we’ll get there in some simple but profound ways: by serving our kids well; by loving people outrageously well; by bringing our authentic selves, by embracing the mess, but bringing our best. By striving for a sense of family over formality.

We can get there. Together.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

  • What steps can you take today to cultivate a multigenerational lifestyle? Is there anyone you can look up to, or invest into?

  • What steps you can you personally take as we strive to cultivate a multigenerational church?

  • Are you recognising any wrong attitudes or beliefs that you need to hand over to God?

 

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