By Sam S. Rainer III
On Sunday, I taught our new members class. It was a smaller class than usual, so I had time to converse a little more with those attending. One woman mentioned she had been a Christian for 75 years, almost to the day. The class took a moment to congratulate her.
It was a reminder to me of the importance of a multigenerational church. If I remember correctly, she told everyone she was a church secretary for 40 years. Just imagine the stories she could tell. Just imagine the wisdom she has gained.
We’re blessed to have as many seniors in our church as we do babies and young children. Many things must take place in a church for multigenerational ministry to work. Two keys, in particular, stand out to me: sacrifice and teachability.
Key 1: The older generation must sacrifice for the younger generation. When the preferences of the older generation become more important than the souls of their children or grandchildren, the church dies. Church legacy passes from one generation to the next when the older generation allows the younger generation to lead and make necessary changes. Giving the legacy of the church to the next generation requires a huge sacrifice on the part of the older generation. It involves selflessness and humility, as well as a lot of patience.
Key 2: The younger generation must have a willingness to be taught by the older generation. It’s selfish and shortsighted for the younger generation to demand change without first learning from the older generation. You can’t expect the older generation to give church leadership to the younger generation without the younger generation also wanting to learn from their elders. The younger generation must be selfless and humble too. Multigenerational ministry is healthy only when the younger generation appreciates the historical sacrifices of the older generation.
I believe God calls all churches to generational unity. A church of only young people is unhealthy, if not disobedient. The same goes for a church of only older people.
Generational unity happens when the older generation sacrifices preferences for the younger generation. Generational unity happens when the younger generation is willing to be taught by the older generation. Sacrifice and teachability — two keys to a unified, multigenerational church.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.