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The Beauty of Intergenerational Worship

     The movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a family favorite of ours.  The music, costuming, scenery, and overall story line all come together to make this a classic for years.  If you have seen the movie, you are most likely aware of a very disturbing scene depicting the town of Vulgaria, where the solemn faces of an “adult only” town is missing something that covertly cries, “Where are all the children?”

     The Bible teaches that we will reap what we sow.  Of course, we know from the fictional town of Vulgaria that these saddened parents desperately longed to have their children back whom the king has had kidnapped through the “child-snatcher.”  However, this tragic scene begs a deeper question:  The king doesn’t like children…do we??  Children can be very messy, noisy, and can interrupt our conversations as well as our career plans.  They get sick and need our care, and with the possibility of so many of them, their needs may take over our lives!

     Our family enjoys going to the local nursing and retirement homes to sing and play our instruments for the residents.  After we spend 30-40 minutes playing everything from hymns to fiddle tunes to show tunes, we just spend time visiting with the residents.  So many of them are deeply lonely and admit that they either did not have any children or the relationships with their adult children are strained. Therefore, they now live hundreds of miles away without any fellowship with either children or grandchildren.  Whatever the various cases may be…the sowing has now resulted in the reaping.

     The church in America has allocated thousands of dollars into children’s ministries.  At the outset, this seems a noble cause.  We quote the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:14 (NIV), “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  But, if we honestly look at how we do church, our motives may be more like the disciples who wanted the children “out of the way” so the important adult stuff could happen.  When we keep the children constantly separated from the rest of the church body, we teach them that they really are not part of the church…at least not the “important part.” 

     We hire adult pastors, youth pastors, and children’s pastors.  We have adult services, youth services, and children’s church.  We have adult missions trips, senior trips, and youth missions trips.  I’m afraid in our effort to offer relevant and age-segregated teachings and fellowship, we have separated the children and youth from the rest of the church.  The adult service looks a bit like…Vulgaria.  Sadly, if we are content with our current situation, those at times “messy and noisy” children grow up all too fast and may not ever join the “adult service” but may either choose to stay in the youth culture or check out of the church all together…Vulgaria is feeling too close.


     While it’s true there are different age groups representing the church, the Bible seems to indicate that everyone in the church at a particular point in history makes up a “generation.” When Jesus would address an entire crowd and speak of “this generation,” the people listening were made up of various age groups.  (Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount.)  There’s something beautiful about witnessing different age groups coming together to worship and sit under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word together.  Furthermore, this “togetherness” can spark wonderful Sunday dinner conversations about the sermon because the entire family experienced church together.  Never underestimate what Jesus said about the Father revealing truths to little children:  “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25 NIV)


     Children can get “squirrely.”  How well do I know!  On the other hand, there is something so precious about a toddler or a baby rocking in mama’s or grandma’s arms during church.  That child, whether they heard the sermon or not, will always associate the warmth of mother’s love in the context of being at church.

     Be realistic and gentle with the two-year-old that simply can’t sit still!  My husband, Brad,  and I have been blessed with very active, “squirrely” children!  We have been working at training them at home to sit still during family devotions and mealtime, but they still tend to wiggle a lot at church! 

     Hang on, moms!  It really is a short season (we have seen so many of our older formerly restless children now sitting quietly and avidly taking notes from Brad’s sermons!) . . . so relax, be flexible, and enjoy bouncing them on your knee in the back of the sanctuary, walk back and forth with them, or just let them color or play with some quiet toys.  I have a friend who gives each of her little ones a personal notebook to take sermon notes, even if the sermon notes are scribbling!  This still prepares them to be good note takers someday when they can read and write.


     It is always encouraging when you hear the stories of children and youth from non-Christian homes getting saved at children’s church, VBS, and or youth events.  I myself met Christ as my Savior as a young teenager through friends at my local public high school who invited me to their youth group. 

     As powerful as my salvation experience was…what inspired me next was the power of the “picture” I locked in my mind of the “family” that reached out to me.  I was invited to share a Saturday morning breakfast of pancakes with my friend’s family.  What took place that day has changed my life forever.  Her father opened the Bible after breakfast and led the entire family in “family devotions.” After he shared from God’s Word, he prayed for the members of his family and then prayed for me! 

     I went home and cried out to God that He would someday bless me with that kind of husband and family.  It was that “spiritual snapshot” that I held onto for many years as I prayed and waited for a Christian man to marry.  That snapshot gave me a standard to hold onto, even when I would get discouraged.  I knew God had given me a picture of a Godly family to keep me from compromising what would be best.

     As Christian families worship together at church, we are giving “spiritual snapshots” to that lonely college girl being tempted to compromise her standards, or hope to the teenager who wonders if loving, functional families even exist!  A picture truly is worth a thousand words!  Let’s give the youth of our churches a vision . . . a dream of a legacy they can believe God for.

      Our family is certainly far from perfect, but when we walk into a restaurant together, people naturally start turning their heads [usually to count our heads!].  They watch us as we order our food, how we speak to the waitress, pray together for our food, and watch our older ones help clean up little messy faces. 

     On more than one occasion we have heard the waitress say to us that someday she would love to have a family like us! On other occasions, especially older couples will come up to us and say, “Your family gives us hope for the world again.”  That’s evangelism!  The glory of God fills the room, and lives are changed.

     How will the youth of our churches ever get a vision for being godly husbands, wives, and parents if they are constantly with people their own age struggling with the same issues?  The blind were never meant to lead the blind!  That is what the first two chapters of the book of Titus are all about—the older people serving as mentors and “non-blind” guides to the younger couples, young people and children. Remember Proverbs 13:20 (NIV): “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”


     Begin to see your family as an evangelistic unit.  I clearly remember one Saturday morning when a young boy knocked on our door to see if our son could come out and play.  We knew this child was from a broken home, so we asked him to go home and ask his dad if he could come inside our house for our Saturday morning devotions.  His dad complied, so we invited the young boy inside and took the opportunity for the following thirty minutes and gave this young boy a “snapshot” of a Christian family.  They have since moved from our neighborhood.  I don’t know if he’ll ever remember the Bible passage my husband shared that day, but I believe his life for eternity may have been changed.

     We simply have to change our paradigm and shift our mindset from solely relying on an “event” in the youth department to win souls for Christ [which is still a great goal and result] and instead begin to reach out as a family to the unsaved in our sphere of influence.  It’s a win-win situation: Our children can stay within our protection and value system while at the same time learning to serve and share the love of Christ with those lost and hurting around us.

     Our youth and children need to feel wanted and needed in our churches if we desire to still have them with us ten to twenty years from now.  We need to realize that we need each other. We need their energy, youth, and cutting-edge thinking.  They need our wisdom, maturity, and seasoned hearts.  We all need lots of little ones to keep us laughing, humble, and balanced in our perspective.

     May “Vulgaria” never become a reality in the future church of America. Instead, let’s be the FAMILY of God!

[For more on this, check out these links:


http://blog.householdworship.org/2013/02/22/the-intergenerational-family-of-god/ ]

Copyright © 2008-2015 Alyson Shedd

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