Preaching To An Intergenerational Church

Preaching to an Intergenerational Church

We’ve been considering the unique needs of five generations of people that are likely represented in your church.  Here is the first post in that series, in case you missed it.   Preaching to an intergenerational church provides some unique challenges, and that is what we will consider in this post.

We’re All Family

My son-in-law was trying to explain to one of my grandsons about why the family schedule got messed up.  One unit of the family got stuck at the family cottage with a car that wouldn’t function, and they needed a ride back to their home–about forty miles away.  That caused a ripple effect for grandsons,  because I couldn’t care for my grandchildren that day, as I headed north to get the people with the broken down car and bring them a considerable distance to their home.  Why did we have this interruption?  My son-in-law succinctly said, “This is what you do for family.”

Preaching Intergenerationally

There are many metaphors for church in the New Testament.  Perhaps the best known is the picture of a body, where each part has a function.  However, when we consider preaching to an intergenerational church the picture of a family likely best catches the idea.  Here are some of the calls to be a family in the New Testament:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.     Galatians. 6:10

And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia.  Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.   I Thessalonians 4:10

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.     I Peter 2:17 

Loving the family means that you give up certain preferences and conveniences for other members.  You make adjustments because the people around you are family.

I titled this section, Preaching Intergenerationally.  Notice that I didn’t say, Multi-generationally.  To say that we are preaching to an intergenerational church implies that the generations are all connected.  That’s different than saying that all the generations are represented, as in the term multigenerational.

The Challenge of Preaching to an Intergenerational Church

Here’s how a man named Doug Webster put it:

Doug Webster

Western cultures generational segregation leads to significant relational fragmentation and disorientation in the household of God.  Peter never would have envisioned the church dividing along generational lines, but today it is common to divide along generational lines.  This is not a fault of any particular generation, but the multigenerational nature of the household of God is a New Testament expectation.   (Douglas D. Webster, Outposts of Hope: First Peter’s Christ for Culture Strategy)

Preaching to the Youth in an Intergenerational Church

So, how do you do this?  I like the strategy that is proposed by Darrell Hall in his book, Speaking Across Generations.  He says that we should, “Honor the Elders, but Focus on the Children”.  What does that mean?  Several things:

  • It means that we will speak in a way that the Seniors in the church can understand and appreciate.
  • It also means that we will unapologetically prioritize language and style that will speak to the younger generations.

At the present time I am serving as an interim pastor in a church that is heavy on the seniors, and light on the younger generations.  As part of my strategy for preaching, I tell the church on somewhat a regular basis that we are shaking up the worship service a bit in order to be relevant to the youth in the church.  Why?  Because the Church in the United States is losing the younger generation.

David Kinsman

The Barna Group, a research organization here in the United States, published the statistics about church dropouts.  David Kinnaman, the author of the book, You Lost Me, and Faith for Exilesreported that the proportion of young adults who were raised in the Church, but were dropping out rose from 59% to 64% in the 8 years between the publication of the two books.

So, in your preaching plans, speak to all generations, but make sure you are planning to preach primarily to the younger generation.  And tell the church you are doing this because we’re family.

Here’s another view: