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There has been a lot of talk about intergenerational worship of late. Congregations are wrestling with how to engage people of all ages and all learning styles in their worship services. It’s an important discussion. 

The authors of Sticky Faith, Kara Powell and Chap Clark, found in their research that participation in intergenerational worship was the number one predictor of whether or not emerging adults would participate in the life of faith and the life of the congregation beyond their high school years. What is interesting to me is the wide variety of pictures that come to mind when folks begin to imagine worship for all ages. 

Some folks, remembering mind-numbing worship services of their childhood, immediately go to reactive mode and vow that their kids will never have to spend an hour counting ceiling tiles or making “handkerchief dolls” while waiting for the next peppermint to be passed out. They would say that it is impossible to engage all ages well. 

Some of our older members may remember being the long arm of the law that could reach down the pew and quiet a swinging leg with one swift pinch during the “long prayer.” They may be glad not to play this worship role anymore, thankful for the quiet as the younger ones head off to Sunday school before the sermon. 

Others can’t imagine a service without room for young worshipers with flags or small tables where children can worship by colouring or working with Bible stories while the rest of the congregation worships alongside them. Newcomers from countries outside North America can’t imagine worshipping without their children alongside them, and many Millennial parents would prefer not to spend more time apart from their children.

Congregations around the denomination are taking the Sticky Faith statistics seriously, and have begun experimenting with a variety of ways to help younger worshippers engage more fully with the worship service. Some are encouraging young listeners to reflect on the sermon and then share those reflections with each other and a worship mentor after the service. Others are looking at programs like Messy Church or are exploring books like Barbara Newman’s Universal Design, Vertical Habits to bless the entire congregation with more inclusive worship.

What does your worship picture look like? Something like this?

Or might it be closer to what Theresa Cho imagines? 

Those of you who are interested in exploring this topic more deeply might be interested in learning from Theresa Cho at the APCE 2020 Annual Event, a conference sponsored by The Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, where Cho will be the keynote speaker. Don’t let the association title throw you off, by the way. This conference is filled with accessible ideas for volunteers and professionals alike, and is not restricted to Presbyterians.  

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