Bringing generations together at church

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At this year’s Flow family conference in Ireland (pictured above), Ezekiel Solomon and John McEvoy examined the Acts 2 church and why ‘generations together’ congregations matter. But how do we build them? Here are some ideas we picked up.

One thing that stands out with the Acts 2 church is the sense of unity, says Ezekiel.
“They lived together, loved one another and spent time together. There was this real sense of love and devotion.”
It chimes with Jesus’ instruction in John 13:34-35. “The Bible tells us the way we love one another will show the world we are disciples of Christ. Evangelising, worshipping together and going out preaching the gospel are important, but it starts from a place of loving one another.”

In that early community of faith there was high awareness of each other’s voices and needs, says John. “We need to be sensitive to the needs of others. We cannot properly engage as generations together if we’re not able to listen to the voice of every single generation.”
But are we able to listen? he asks. We think we know what’s best for our children and youth, but have we asked them?
“Could you enter the world of some of the age groups in your church, find out what it’s like for them then bring them into the space of shared faith so they have a voice, an expression, a visibility?”

“The beauty of what we see in Acts 2 is the generations together,” says Ezekiel.
It’s a unity that is well demonstrated at events like Ireland Flow.
“I love weeks like this where people from all generations come and live together, worshipping, fellowshipping, going out into the community.
“There’s young children making noise, youth screaming at each other, adults talking and enjoying teas and coffees.
“It’s a picture of what the church is meant to look like – people from every generation together, not just doing meetings but doing life.”

Teenagers love to sit at the back – and from that vantage point they’re watching you, says Ezekiel. Your life – how much you love Jesus – impacts the way they see church.
“It’s a challenge for us – would you confidently tell them to imitate you as you imitate Christ?”
Think of a young person doing exactly what you do, living exactly the way you live. What in them would you seek to change? What in your life would you feel uncomfortable about?
“Whether you’re a youth or kids leader or not, you have a responsibility through your life to lead them.”

Too often we come together with children or youth and wonder “What can I teach them?” But how often do we ask Jesus what they can teach us?
Ezekiel gives the example of ten-year-old Eliza whose response whenever things go wrong is “It’s OK; I’ll pray to Jesus.” Then there’s 15-year-old Emma who posts Bible verses on social media to tell her friends and family about Jesus.
“I look at these examples and I’m encouraged and challenged by the way they live their lives… we have to recognise that they are examples of Christ.”

What would it look like if we demonstrated generations together? asks John. That’s not to say age-specific areas in church aren’t important, but what if we counterbalanced them with inclusivity?
“Could we have a child open in prayer in one of our services? Could we have a young person read a passage from the Bible as part of our regular expression of church together? Could we have a child pray for people and prophesy?”
What if we taught our teenagers how to lead the main service then released them to do that, or to preach?

Ezekiel quotes a Singaporean pastor, “If you raise your children to be children they will always be children. But if you raise your children to be young leaders and equip them, they will learn to lead.”
If we want to see every generation worshipping and leading together, we need to stop expecting perfect leaders to walk through our doors, he says.
“We’ve got to look at the people around us and see how we can invest in their lives. Jesus did this… he didn’t pick perfect and ready people, he picked 12 messy people and said “Follow me, I’ll show you what to do.”

From Direction Magazine

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