The Children Are Our Future

Whitney Houston was on to something when she sang, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way…” If we’re going to a church of all ages, we’re going to have to invest in our students and children. The old adage is true: if you want future music teams filled with capable musicians, you must invest in them beginning at an early age. I don’t think anyone would doubt the veracity of this, but often church leaders prefer to teach our next generations in silos rather than give them the opportunity to interact regularly with older generations. To be clear, I’m all for age stratified training that’s developmentally appropriate, but finding balance is key. Be a leader that allows students and children the space to not only get age-appropriate instruction, but the opportunity to serve alongside older generations simultaneously.

With the advent of increased awareness of the need for intergenerational worship in our churches, many arrangers and publishers of music for choirs and instrumental ensembles have created songs that are decidedly for various generations to present together. In these songs are portions for children, students, and adults to have the chance to lead together. Often, these songs will feature soloists and narrators from each generation as well as allow the different choirs to sing alone and together. Many worship leaders I’ve spoken with will plan entire services, often called a “Multigenerational Sunday,” where they intentionally utilize all generations in their church in one service. The visual of all generations on the platform alone is a reminder that we are the church united. Wouldn’t it be great if every Sunday could be like this? I believe it could be.

Multigenerational Sundays are great, but only a first step. To be truly intentionally intergenerational, there needs to be relationships formed between the various ages in your groups. Leading together doesn’t simply mean sharing the platform space with various generations. Leading together means serving in consistent ministry. Create an environment where your students and children are able to be discipled by older, wiser music ministry participants. May your older generations seek to come alongside the next generations and invest in the future of the church.

In their book, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids[i], Powell and Clark found that older students crave affirmation and relationships with adults in their community of faith. It makes them feel valued. They want to get connected to the church, to serve, to invest in others themselves. Powell and Clark go on to say that older students who invest in younger kids are more likely to be connected and committed to their local church.  Students want to feel valued and appreciated for what they can bring to the community of faith and it impacts their spiritual development as well.

You must seek creative ways to use your students and children every chance you can because if they don’t get connected early in life, it’s likely they’ll never get plugged in as an adult. They crave relationships with adults who value what talents and ideas they bring to the table. They need validation and affirmation along the way. They are the future of the church and we must find ways for them to learn, grow, serve, and invest in others themselves.

Here a just a few ways you as a leader can invest and allow students and children the opportunity to grow and serve in the intergenerational church:

  1. Develop student accompanists
  2. Allow students and children to sing in the main Sunday morning choir
  3. Use students and children on praise teams or to sing solos
  4. Allow students and children to play their instruments in an instrumental ensemble
  5. Train and equip students for audio/visual ministry
  6. Allow students and children to have a voice in worship ministry planning

Younger generations must have the opportunity to develop their skills as they learn what it means to lead in worship. You never know who God is calling to not only vocational ministry, but who He’s calling to serve the church after you are gone. Truthfully, isn’t it worth it to invest in even a few students if someone gets plugged in for life? If not, the church of tomorrow will be severely lacking musicians.

No matter what size church you have or what your style of musical worship is, find many outlets for your students and children to serve. It just makes sense to provide opportunities for the greatest number of kids to participate. Certainly, extremely talented musicians should have greater responsibility as needed, but don’t forget the moderate level musician in your church. We need all kinds in the body of Christ, and that extends also to music ministry. We must foster an environment that seeks to honor the giftedness of all and provides avenues for them to serve.

I get it; the pressure, worship leader, is undoubtedly high in your church to produce a quality worship experience each week. Taking a “training” approach to music ministry takes guts and a solid plan. The beginning product might not be awesome, but keep plugging away, training, investing, and praying for God to move and the quality will continue to rise if you raise the bar high and encourage along the way.

I tell people often I’ve had key people in my life that invested in me from an early age. They saw something in me that needed to be utilized for the building of the Kingdom. I think of them often and remind them of their specific encouragement and risk they took letting me accompany or sing when I didn’t even think I was ready. Because of their investment in me, I’m able to invest in our next generations. Who are investing in?

[i] Kara Powell and Chap Clark, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2011), 98-99.

Benefits to an Intergenerational Choral Ministry

In my research on intergenerational choirs in Southern Baptist Churches in Georgia, I found that leaders of churches that are intergenerational usually have a philosophical reason to value them. Even those leaders that are organically intergenerational and not always intentional about celebrating the diversity of ages in the church, still value that the generations are worshiping together in their church.

When asked why these leaders, who already serve intergenerational churches, value not only having an intergenerational church, but having a choir that is intergenerational, they responded with the following answers in rank order.

  1. The choir reflects the age diversity already present in the congregation. Over 70% of those interviewed stated that they simply want the choir to be a reflection (generationally) of what is already present in the congregation. Makes a lot of sense!
  2. The choir is the easiest/best way to involve multiple generations in the worship service. These leaders have realized that the music ministry is an excellent way to get all ages involved in  serving in worship. What other ministry of the local church involves the youngest and the eldest members of the church simultaneously on a regular basis?
  3. Older and Younger Members should learn from each otherThese leaders have identified what I call mutual submission or mutual learning. As I’ve mentioned before, there is something to be learned from young people. Likewise, the older members can pour into younger members the wealth of knowledge they’ve gained along the way. Each generation must learn to be submissive and respectful of all as the intergenerational church learns to co-exist and aim for unity (think Phil. 2)
  4. It’s Biblical. What surprised me was that only about 20 percent of those leaders I interviewed even mentioned the biblical precedent for intergenerational worship. Of the 20 percent, the leaders overwhelmingly were older Millennials and leaders from Generation X. My research did not indicate WHY this was the case, but my thought is that our younger music leaders are being encouraged to consider the biblical precedent because they grew up in the “worship wars,” while the older leaders never were taught many years ago (and they didn’t have to) why they should be intergenerational.
  5. Leader’s personal preference or experience. A few of those interviewed (actually most of these, not surprisingly, were from organic intergenerational churches) indicated that they felt the church should be like it always “was.” By this I mean, several decades ago there wasn’t the need to be discussing this topic and their churches are still operating in that same mode of “family” church.                                                                                                                                                                                            The choir has the opportunity to pave the way for promoting intergenerational behavior throughout the rest of the church. The choir must work together to overcome music style differences, traditions, and preferences in order to lead in worship.

Family Night of Worship

Want an easy way to integrate the various generations in your church into an easy to plan worship experience? Plan a Family Night of Worship.
Here’s what I mean:

Plan an event where you ask nuclear and extended families to present some musical/fine art offering in a worship service setting. Here’s what you do:

  1. Pick a date and time for a worship service that allows church members from any of your main worship services to attend.
  2. Ask family members from all generations who are musical to prepare a song, or two, for a special worship service. This can also include dance, comedy, or any arts related “act” for the worship service.
  3. Add congregational music and/or testimonies in between family groups.

Some families have instrumentalists and singers, some have instrumental or vocal only. Other “acts” will have dancers or sign language. It doesn’t matter the combination as long as you get your creative juices flowing and get all ages in your family leading in worship together.

This event does not have to be limited to those in your biological family either. We’re all a part of the family of God so get creative with creating “acts” for this worship service.

I typically do one of these events each year. You’d be amazed at the variety of worship “acts” that are presented. In my family all of my children are instrumentalists so we typically do an instrumental piece for this event. When the boys were younger we gave them easy to participate parts so all generations could serve together. Some families will include up to four generations of singers and/or players in their “act” of worship and it’s such a blessing to see and hear them together on the platform.

BONUS! This event allows the opportunity to “showcase” a wider range of talented people of various ages in the church that otherwise may not have time for in the regular main Sunday services. It’s an easy event that goes a long way to helping build a family, intergenerational atmosphere in your church.