In the last 30 years, age-segmented worship was an unforeseen effect of the contemporary worship movement within Christianity. What has developed in many (not all) churches are two worship services. A traditional service with older adults and a commentary service with younger adults. This results into a type of age segregation in congregations.
Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, TN is one example of a leader who end years of age-segmented worship in his church. This process was not easy for Tchividjian, but he gives us an important reality of age separation in worship:
The primary reason, though, that stylistic segregation in worship shrinks our souls is because it prevents us from knowing God deeply. The only way to know him deeply is to have many different types of Christian people in your life, since each person will help to reveal a part of God that you can’t see by yourself. This means the great tragedy of segregation isn’t so much that we see less of each other but that in separating from each other we see less of God. All of us need other lights than our own to see more of his myriad facets.
Will we see a reversal of age segregation in worship services in churches in the United States?
Most likely, we will not see a drastic change. However, you will see a large minority of churches in the next 10 years beginning to have blended worship. Robert Webber, considered the father of modern blended worship, proclaimed in several books that the way to enrich our worship is through both the proven practices of our shared historical Christian heritage and modern approaches to worship.
Leonard Sweet, professor and author, continues to speak about the four keys to worship that is passionate and connects the people. No matter what the worship tradition, churches that are reaching people are doing four things “EPIC”:
- Experiential – worshipers encounter the Divine
- Participatory – worshipers do more than sit
- Image Based – symbols and images are used
- Connective – the worship connects people to people and people to God
At my church, we continue to slowly employ various forms of authentic Christian worship and music. We sing contemporary songs, hymns, responses, pray printed prayers, pray in silence, pray informally, gather, hear the word, use multimedia, use different ways to receive communion, use organ, piano, guitar, bass, choir, song leaders, and use a diverse mix of worship styles. It is a tension of beloved methods of worship and new.
The future of American churches depends on how church leaders can adapt and worship in authentic ways and not use gimmicks. Remember, Christ commanded us to make disciples, not converts. The glam of emotionally charged, arm twisting, and entertainment based worship tends to produce converts. We need richer worship practices.
People want to experience God. People want to have spiritual encounters with God and that can be done by including everyone: young, old, youth, children, black, white, gen-X, gen-y, and Baby Boomers. Let us end the segregation in worship by having a rich, diverse, and authentic worship that praises God and feeds the worshiper.