Recently I was reading something and the writer used the term “generational segregation” to describe the distribution of different age related ministries in the church. I don’t even remember where I read it or who said it, but that phrase stuck with me. Over the next few days I found myself repeating that phrase over and over again in my head.
After a few days I was able to stop dwelling on it, but it was still there in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s just because of our history in America, but in my mind segregation had a very negative tone. However, I’m not convinced that creating unique environments for the different age groups is a negative thing.
Consider schools. In the early years of our country most schooling took place in a single room with kids of all ages together. Over the years since then this has changed to a point were most school have each grade level in a separate class room. Now, I can’t speak to the actual reasoning that lead to this change, but I have to believe that the differing educational needs of the each age group had to be a factor. While it is not exactly the same in the church, the point does transfer. In my church we offer environments for kids because the pastor wants the freedom to deliver the message that God places on his heart without having to worry about young ears. For instance would you want your kindergartener in the room while he spoke frankly about sexual purity? What about the book of Revelation? I know that both of these topics can be addressed with children, but not in same manner that you present them to teens and adults.
Next let’s consider the service itself. Many are recommending that families should be encouraged/required to worship together, that kids can learn how to worship by being with adults that are worshiping. I have a couple of comments on that; what if the people in the adult worship service are as unplugged and un-worshipful as some of the kids are? Next, are the adults in kid’s church not worshiping? Can they not learn from them?
Here’s another thought. Who is the adult worship service designed for? What most churches do to try and fight generational segregation is to throw the kids into the regular adult service. Chances are, in most cases, this service has been designed for adults. It may simply be because the worship leader happens to be an adult and hasn’t taken the time to consider the presence of kids. If the goal is simply to get parents and children worshiping together, then why not send the adults to kid’s church? This seems crazy to suggest, but that is essentially what we are doing to the kids, forcing them to attend a worship service that was never designed for them.
So, where do I stand with this. I think that there is a need for environments designed with the specific needs of the different age groups in mind. However, I do see the value of having parents and their kids worshipping together. For me this means creating occassional environments with parents and their kids in mind. Some churches refer to this as an FX or Family Experience. How often this happens can vary based on the needs/abilities of your church and it’s people. My goal is not to tell you how to bring adults and children together.
Children, youth, and adults have different educational and spiritual needs. They face different issues based on the stage of life they are in. I am only 37 years old yet teenagers today face issues that didn’t even exist when I was a teen. For this reason I think it is necessary to have unique environments designed with each age group in mind.
I understand what people are trying to accomplish by seeking to abolish “generational segregation”, but I am not sure that this is the answer. I think that we need to take a step back and look at the WHY behind this. Form there we can begin to develop the how or the what that can address the why. The motives are good, but I think that many are taking somewhat of a knee jerk reaction to addressing the problem.
I know that this view may conflict with what many people are saying, or doing in the church today. I would love to hear to hear your thoughts on this. I don’t try to say that I have all the answers and I am more than open to hearing differing opinions.