LeaderLines - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
Manage Your Subscription -- Subscribe/Unsubscribe Contact Us About Your Subscription

Multi-Generational Worship
by Tom Goodman
November 6, 2008

Last week the Monitor published an article about the return of the multi-generational family called "All the Family Under One Roof."  Marilyn Gardner wrote:

The multi-generation household is making a comeback as Mom, Dad, kids, and grandparents live under one roof.  The number of parents age 65 and older moving in with adult children increased by 62 percent between 2000 and 2007, the Census Bureau reports.  Those under 65 who did so grew by 75 percent.

As I read the article, I thought of our multi-generational church.  During this six-week emphasis called "Together @ 10," we've got "all the family under one roof," too.

I want to make the arrangement permanent.

As promised, "Together @ 10" ends after 6 weeks.  On Sunday, November 30, we're back to the 2-service format we've had the last two-and-a-half years.  But I plan to return us to a single multi-generation service as soon as possible.

Why?  Because "all the family under one roof" is the best way to pass the baton.

Four weeks ago I began a series in this LeaderLines e-newsletter on passing the baton.  It's one of the most critical lessons a church body has to learn.  Three weeks ago we "de-coded" our church's ZIP code to discover that our mission field is chock-full of those in the first half of adulthood.  Two weeks ago we looked at how to inspire those in the first half of adulthood to the high calling of life in Christ.  Last week we examined "reverse mentoring."  I'll end the series today on the subject of multi-generational worship, because it's a highly effective way to pass the baton when done right.

What is "done right"?  What our multi-generational church needs is the approach to worship we find in the Bible.  I find three phrases that describe biblical worship -- and all the generations need this kind of worship:

First, biblical worship includes songs of celebration AND songs of contemplation.  Some don't think a church service is reverent enough if the music is loud and boisterous; others don't think a church service has life if the music is reflective and earnest.  But when I read about worship in God's Word, sometimes I read about loud instruments and shouts of praise, and sometimes I read about bowing in hushed reverence in God's presence.  Seems to me God is pleased with both.  Multi-generational worship "done right" will sometimes use guitars and drums that burst forth with joyous rhythm, and it will sometimes use the sweet strains of orchestral instruments.

Second, biblical worship includes songs that express simple trust AND songs that express profound truth.  I remember a man in a former church who always berated me for the praise choruses that occasionally showed up in our order of worship.  He belittled the songs by calling them "little ditties."  I had enough one morning and said in reply, "You know, brother, God must like little ditties, because he put a lot of little ditties in his Book!"

In your Bible reading, I'm sure you've run across these "little ditties" -- brief psalms that express love to God in simple, childlike ways.

On the other hand, what could be more profound than one of the earliest New Testament hymns found in Philippians 3:6-11?  Most commentators believe Paul is quoting a hymn that the early church sang, and it's thick with weighty concepts of the pre-existent Christ divesting himself of divine privileges to die on a cross in humble service to God's people before being raised in vindication and glory.  That song is a hearty theological meal!

Why demand either/or when God wants us to worship with both?  In our services, sometimes we need those simple, childlike expressions of trust as we sing with the praise band...

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord,
We will wait upon the Lord,
We will wait upon the Lord.
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord,
We will wait upon the Lord,
We will wait upon the Lord.

And sometimes we need those songs that plumb the theological depths, like the Getty hymn Gene leads us in with that stirring last stanza...

No guilt in life, no fear in death --
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home --
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Third, biblical worship includes songs that are new AND old.  In the Book of Revelation, John described heaven's worship service.  At one point he saw God's redeemed people holding harps "given them by God" and they "sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb....' (Revelation 15:2-3, NIV)  But John also saw 24 elders bowing down before the Lamb.  They too had harps "and they sang a new song." (Revelation 5:9, NIV).

So, in heaven, John heard "the song of Moses" and "a new song."  I think the best earthly worship services sing the old familiar standards as well as the new expressions of praise, too.

The good news is that it's easier to sing old songs and new songs together in 2008 than at any other time in the long, sad history of the "worship wars."  Why?  Because people not only need old and new songs -- they want them!

Don't assume that younger adults only want praise choruses and older adults only want hymns.  Younger adults as well as older adults like the durable songs.  (But understand that by "durable songs" I mean "really old" not "recently old"!)  Surveys of favorite religious music among young adults reveal a great love for stately songs like "A Mighty Fortress," roots/folk songs like the Celtic "Be Thou My Vision," and songs that authentically reveal struggle, like "Come, Thou Fount" ("Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it").  I don't know if you've noted the popularity of CDs of traditional hymns.  Jars of Clay released a project called Redemption Songs, and it was all folk-rock arrangements of old standards.  Then there was the Passion project Hymns: Ancient and Modern.  Alan Jackson's country CD Precious Memories became a surprise hit when it was released a few years ago:  It's a simple recording of hymn favorites accompanied by an upright piano.

So, today's churches are arguing about the wrong thing in the debate between old hymns or new choruses.  All the generations want, and need, both.

I hope you're seeing that multi-generational worship isn't about doing a few songs to satisfy senior adults and then doing a few songs to satisfy the younger crowd.  No, multi-generational worship is about being biblical:

  • It's about shouts of celebration and bowing in contemplation.
  • It's about expressing simple trust and profound truth.
  • It's about lifting up new musical expressions as well as old familiar standards.

All the generations need all of these elements!

Oh, gathering all the generations together for worship isn't easy.  In the Monitor article on multi-generational families, Gardner reported on the benefits that families gained, but she was careful not to gloss over the challenges that families faced in these arrangements.  "You just have to let some things slide, pick your battles, and hope you're doing the right thing," said one mom who moved her dad in to join her husband and kids.

She could have been talking about the household of God, not just her own household.  But I want Psalm 145:4 (Msg) to be a description of what happens in our worship services:

Generation after generation
stands in awe of your work;
each one tells stories of your mighty acts.

Let's figure out how to do that!


LeaderLines is a weekly "e-briefing" providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

Do you know friends who would appreciate LeaderLines?  Just forward this e-mail to them!

Have you subscribed to LeaderLines?  You can subscribe by clicking here and following the instructions.  Your e-mail address will not be sold or given away to anyone, and you can automatically change your subscription or drop it by following the easy steps provided with each e-mail.