There’s Mud Ahead: Why Intergenerational Churches are Vital

We were on a hike at the local state park. It was a beautiful day, and the shade during our walk provided a welcome reprieve from the sun’s rays. The excitement of “actually getting out of the house” hurried our preparations for exploring nature. We were armed with bottled water and our normal hiking clothes. It was time to have fun. Even the kids were enthused about the event (which speaks volumes since it had nothing to do with electronics). On the way to the park, we discussed what path we would take, and decided on one that was not terribly long, but provided some good scenic views. We had a late morning start so we wanted to make sure we timed it out right to eat lunch at the appropriate time.

As the hike started, we had a fairly typical experience (nodding our heads to people we passed, telling the kids not to pick up rocks and sticks, recounting stories of previous hikes, etc.). Then, as we approached an older couple walking the opposite direction, they told us of a hazard that we were about to experience. The rain from 2 days prior had caused certain low areas to collect water and form large mud pits that were difficult to cross. We thanked the couple for letting us know what was ahead of us, and trekked forward. Sure enough, we reached exactly what they described, and it was nice because we had mentally prepared for it. There were 3 different areas that contained mud and when we passed them, we soon saw other hikers who had not yet approached the mud pits. We then told them about what they were going to experience so they were also prepared.

This experience led me to reflect on Deuteronomy 6; a deeply foundational section of scripture referred to as “The Shema”. It is called this, because the first word in verse 4, in Hebrew, is literally “shema” (to listen/hear). In this writing (which was, and still is, regularly repeated/ prayed by committed Jews) emphasizes the holiness of God and our obedient response to Him. It also goes on to command followers to embed the message on their hearts AND pass down this communication to the next generation. This command wasn’t just conveyed to people with children, but to the whole worship community. It was everyone’s job to make sure this message was being preserved for future generations. It is life-giving and requires remembrance.  

For many, it becomes tempting to seek out worship communities that mostly reflect their own current context in life. People often try to find congregations that have mostly people their own age, with the same age of children, or perhaps containing young married couples that share their same interests. I think this can be a mistake (depending on the heart attitude). While some of this is great, often what happens is that entire churches shut out those of other generational demographics. There tend to be a lack of older people with more life experience to help guide and disciple. Then, a new church growth book is published, and the author essentially wags his/ her finger at the older generation, telling them they have abandoned the younger generation.

In the same way that nice older couple told us about the mud hazard ahead, we need intergenerational worship experiences to help us prepare for future physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental hazards. If facilitated in a healthy way, the more mature generation can pour into the less mature by utilizing their stories. We simply cannot get this without older and younger generations experiencing life together. Older believers have a command (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) that they need to fulfill. Let’s not rob them of that.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

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