What are the characteristics of a Multi-Generational Church?

 In Jason Bunger

This is the second installment of a three-part blog (read the first here) about the demographical make-up of a local congregation.  My premise is that a Biblical church, as described in Acts, will model Biblical unity and demographic diversity.  The values of our love for Christ and His truth bring people together from diverse ethnic, generational, and socio-economic background. I believe this is the natural model for the church and that churches lack this diversity by appealing so some demographic at the expense of another. This week, I want to look at the characteristics of a multi-generational church. A Biblical Church should strive to be a Multi-Generational Church.

1.  Multi-generational churches are seen in scripture.  If a church lives beyond one generation, and it is growing, it ought to be multi-generational.    In Paul’s instruction to Titus, he encouraged Titus (2:1-6) to teach certain things to older men and other things to younger men.  Likewise, Paul instructed Titus that older women are to teach younger women. This assumes there were multiple generations in the local church.  Each generation had its share of challenges, but the younger generations were to learn from their elders.   

2.  Multi-generational churches go at a different pace. This past summer, I took my family to Washington D.C. for a couple days. The trip was very different than the last time we went.  We saw about half of the monuments and museums than we normally would have seen, because we are now a multi-generational family.  We went at the pace of a 70 year old and the pace of a 6 year old.  Multi-generational families and churches move a different pace, but the journey is much more enjoyable. Change is slower at a multi-generational church.  But it is life-giving when it is done with intentionality and integrity.  

3.  Multi-generational churches are attractive to each generation. Studies are confirming what people have believed for thousands of years, and what the Bible clearly teaches. Younger people want to be mentored, coached and shepherded by someone older who has walked their path before them.  Studies show that the #1 way young people stay engaged in church as an adult is if they serve alongside of their parents through their young years. Instead of having a youth mission trip one month, and an adult mission trip the next, why not have a trip where the entire family can participate as well.? Think about it, why should parents and children be apart from each other for two weeks?  More than that, when we offer “youth only” or “adult only” mission trips, we begin creating a ministry experience where students begin associating the greatest growing opportunities in a persons life with being away from family.    

4.  Multi-Generational churches look for ways to honor older members and empower younger ones.  Churches look for opportunities to honor those who have served faithfully, acted with integrity and persevered through tragedy.  We give honor to our elders.  Likewise, we look for opportunities to involve younger people.  Students must have a place in the main service (notice I did not say “adult” service).  Students should see this as their church growing up.  Do they get to greet, usher, run the sound board, play on the worship team, pray, on a regular basis? Younger people are looking for belonging, purpose and warmth.

5.  Multi-Generational churches are built around that which is eternal, not trendy.  John MacArthur has said that quickest way to become irrelevant is to define yourself by your generation.  The gospel is always relevant, and people always struggle with sin.  Everyone in every generation needs to know how they can be made right with God. Recently, I had the privilege of teaching a class at one of the local seminaries. The class was a multi-generational class.  The youngest student, probably in his mid 20’s, shared about how his church is growing among young people. He said this is because he simply preaches 40-minutes expository messages from Bible for each Sunday.  The older students began to object, “Younger people only want to be entertained” they said.  His response was great.  “No, that is what your generation thinks they want.”

Multi-Generational churches grow at a slower rate, but they are a blessing to because each generation is able to simultaneously learn from one generation while caring for another generation. I am thankful for the mature believers that influenced me growing up and growing into ministry. Finally, the older I get, the cooler they become.    


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