Dr. David W. Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. He blogs at http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner . You can follow him on Twitter: @dwmanner.
In an effort to appease multi-generations and minimize conflict, leaders either attempt to seek stylistic and musical common ground or they divide themselves along age and preference lines. Except in rare instances, it appears from both efforts that the worshiping community suffers and all generations lose. The impasse is a result of trying to accommodate the musical tastes of a congregation made up of both 20th and 21st century leaders, learners, and worshipers.
Gary Parrett and Steven Kang wrote, “Churches must realize that it takes the whole community of faith to raise the children of that community in the faith. But, many American churches have moved with fierce determination to separate the generations from one another to provide more generation specific ministry. Tragically, such an approach to ministry can easily have the effect of encouraging the segregated ‘generations’ to be unduly absorbed with their own needs and to have little concern for others. This runs both ways – from older to younger and younger to older. But it is the younger who suffer most in such an arrangement. And it is the older who will have to give account for shirking their God-appointed duties toward the young.”
Differences between 20th and 21st century worshipers:
- 20th century worshipers are linear, written text, and physical; 21st century worshipers are multi-sensory, hypertext, and virtual.
- 20th century worshipers are independent…independent is owned; 21st century worshipers are collaborative…collaborative is shared.
- 20th century worshipers are stationary…for a lifetime; 21st century worshipers are mobile…for a season.
- 20th century worshipers are deductive…deductive is top-down; 21st century worshipers are inductive…inductive is bottom-up. Note: The weakness of inductive is its limitations in building doctrine. The weakness of deductive is its susceptibility to being infected with dogma.
- 20th century worshipers are local; 21st century worshipers are global.
- 20th century worship is routinized…it has worked for generations…why change? 21st century worship is creative…it has been around for generations…why not try something new? Routinized is predictable; Creative is often unpredictable.
Obviously, the previous list is a generalization. If, however, even a few of the differences are evident in the cultures of our congregations how can we ever hope to find common ground? The answer is…we probably can’t…at least not in those differences.
Multi-generational worship is only possible if our common ground is deference instead of preference. Deference is a learned and practiced submission based on conviction…preference is based on feeling and tradition. Deference encourages worshipers to respond in spite of the circumstances of the tradition and embedded theology that previously influenced their thinking and actions. Deference offers a common ground that style and musical preferences never will.
Deference is the agreement that although we may not always love the music of our children and grandchildren…we love our children and grandchildren. Deference is the willingness to set aside our preferences for the good of those children and grandchildren. Multi-generational worship will occur when the only battle is over who can offer/give the most instead of who deserves/demands the most.
 Parrett, Gary A. and S. Steve Kang, Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful: A Biblical Vision for Education in the Church (Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity, 2009), 152.