On Chinese Checkers and Worshipping God

Posted by: in Editorials on April 1st

For decades, in churches all over America, people have disagreed about what songs to sing. The contention has been so raw that it has been named the “Worship Wars.” At the risk of oversimplification, worship wars happen when younger church members want to sing newer songs louder. At the same time, older members want to sing the more familiar, more traditional songs quieter. But what if I told you we could avoid the battle altogether? I’m convinced that we can.

I grew up in what would be called a multigenerational church — each generation had ministry efforts geared toward the age groups represented. This is exampled in the Sunday school program, which was alive and well. Older saints met for a time of instruction, while the youth group was divided between high school and junior high and the elementary kids received Bible education too. Do not misunderstand — the foundation my multigenerational church provided was essential. However, my parents worked to ensure that the worship I was involved in was intergenerational. The difference between multigenerational and intergenerational is critical. In a multigenerational church, there are several age groups present. In an intergenerational church, several age groups interact. How did they do this? I’m glad you asked.

As a young person, my family often visited the home of the Millers. The Miller’s were an elderly couple in the congregation I previously described. There, around a shared meal and hours of Chinese checkers, I gained an appreciation for the anthems of their youth. As they recalled the stories of how God worked in their lives, they were often profoundly emotionally touched. My siblings and I, no longer concerned with who was winning the game, sat engrossed in tales of God’s redemptive power and miraculous work. We would help clean up, then go home.

On Sunday, when the worship leader started singing the hymn, which may have caused snickers among my peers and me, my attention turned to Bro. and Sis. Miller. Their worship caused my worship to flow more freely. I understood that our lives were intertwined, that the same Christ who had made a way fifty years ago is still able to make way for me today. Instead of hearing a style of music, I understood the stories attached to the song.

And that is how we can avoid the Worship War altogether: altogether. I never heard the Millers verbalize the effect our time together had on their worship, but I imagine it was strangely similar to that which I experienced. However, I do remember the Millers worshiping, regardless of the songs’ release date or volume.

Interaction between generations in the local congregation is the most effective way to burn the intergenerational bridge. This interaction between age groups will eliminate the “Worship Wars.” Interaction between generations will eliminate a host of other problems caused by either a lack of trust in an energetic, less experienced generation or a lack of knowledge about the aging, more wise generation.

We need each other. The only way we will experience growth and burn the intergenerational bridge is together. So, find a church member a few years older than you. Share a meal with them. Learn why they serve Christ, then serve Christ together.


Christopher Henderson serves as the Dean of Christian Leadership at Indiana Bible College. He holds a Master of Arts in Ministry with an emphasis in Leadership from Wesleyan Seminary located in Marion, Indiana. He made the best decision of his life when he married Leah, and together they are raising Corbitt and Wyatt – the best things that ever happened to them.
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