All the flavors of heaven: celebrating intergenerational worship

by Tom Tillman on February 24, 2022 in Church Health

Across Texas, a growing trend has been to begin combining traditional and contemporary worship services to create something that effectively reaches all ages.

A choir of all ages

As director of Music & Worship for Texas Baptists, from time to time, I take on an Interim Worship position. Earlier this year, I agreed to help Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas during such an interim. On my first Sunday in January, the pandemic was in full force and the church was heavily socially distanced and masked. I was convinced that on my first Sunday, we still needed to have the support of a choir. The church had not used a choir since March of 2020 due to the shutdown. But you have to start somewhere. We had four people spread out in masks singing in the loft that day. The response from the congregation and online community was very positive. It brought a needed energy and encouragement to the people. Fast forward to November 28, the first Sunday of Advent. We had 30 in the choir, a small orchestra, 15 in the children’s choir, and we utilized students and young families through the Hanging of the Green service to usher in the first Sunday of Advent. It was joyous to see how the whole church came together in this expression of worship that day. The comment we heard over and over was how excited the congregation was to see the children participating in the worship service. The use of multi-generations in worship is always a success!

Cliff Temple Church member William Zimmerman, who also plays acoustic guitar each week in the service, notes that there has definitely been excitement from the members about coming back after the shutdown. “It’s almost like it’s a flavor of heaven having everyone in one place worshipping together.”

Intergenerational worship in Round Rock

Bo Faulkner has been the Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church of Round Rock for over three years. The church has two Sunday morning worship services. One is “Blended” with a choir, organ, piano, guitars, keys, drums, and sometimes an orchestra. This service focuses on singing hymns. The other service is “Contemporary,” with no choir or organ, using a few singers and focusing more on modern worship songs. Faulkner recently encouraged the staff to focus on a Sunday where they would emphasize multi-generational worship with all ages leading. The plan was to do the same identical service in both time slots. It took a couple of months of planning and coordination as everyone learned their new roles. Faulkner said the day was incredible and exciting for the church. One senior adult said, “I didn’t know we (the church) were this big! It’s so good to see everyone worshipping together!” Faulkner also said he received many comments from both parents and grandparents who loved seeing the children lead in worship.

“It added an energy and a spark of excitement to the church,” Faulkner said, “It’s no longer about the style of music that day, but God’s people coming together to worship. There is definitely an excitement and energy to do it more often.”

The church plans to do this moving forward once in the fall and once in the spring as well as incorporating quarterly hymn sings. The church blended instrumentalists from both services and sang two choral anthems that day. Faulkner worked hard at selecting songs that really connected with all ages. He said the whole day was a positive experience and many of the members put aside their personal worship style preferences for the sake of the church and unity.

Blending services in Friendswood

Dr. David Lorenz is the senior pastor at First Baptist Friendswood. Prior to the pandemic, they had two very distinct worship styles for their two Sunday morning services, a traditional, choir and orchestra led, and a contemporary service that was band-driven. After returning back to in-person worship, they realized those services needed to look different. There would not be as many people in the room that was once shoulder to shoulder.

Lorenz explained, “You have to have a vision for your church. Coming out of the pandemic, our vision is to have services that are more similar than different.”

The church also realized that many of their volunteers would need to double up duties. Where they once chose one service to attend, they now needed to help in both. This included musicians as well as greeters. They decided for the sake of unity to bring the two styles together, allowing both services to sing the same songs and have the same elements. Where one service used to be hymn heavy and the other was predominantly modern worship songs, the new plan was to use elements from both services to create a blend where everyone could worship together.

Ben Stultz is the worship pastor at FBC Friendswood. Lorenz explained that Stultz is very gifted at both leading a more traditional choir but picking up a guitar and leading all ages in worship. “Ben has been able to pastor and shepherd our worship ministry in a new direction. He trains and teaches us well.” Stultz said that he has intentionally planned a couple of hymns each service to minister to both the older and younger generations. “It’s the Colossians 3:16 principle. The Bible gives us license to bring in different styles”, Stultz said.

“Our worship pastor has been key to cast the vision that we are one church,” Lorenz said. “The 83-year-old member can be in the same room as a 13-year-old, and they can worship together.”

Tom Tillman is the director of Music & Worship at Texas Baptists. To learn more about this ministry or set up a consultation, go to txb.org/music.

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