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  • Matt Perry

The Joys of Pastoring A Multi-Generational Church

Hi. My name is Matthew Perry, and I pastor a semi-traditional, multigenerational Baptist church.

Before you say, “This sounds like an AA meeting—are you lamenting your situation?” Far from it.

When I interviewed at my current church back in October 2011, one of the questions that was asked me in various ways was basically this: “What do you think of pastoring a church with a good amount of senior adults in it?” My response surprised them: “Senior adults need pastors, too!” And what a tremendous blessing they’ve been to this pastor and this church.

You see, I have a number of colleagues who look at my semi-traditional (translate: you still sing hymns with a piano and organ?), multigenerational (translate: you have a good number of senior adults at your church), Baptist (translate: they are so rigid in what they believe—ew) church and want to avoid this scenario.

But this scenario is a blessing if that church seeks to follow what Scripture says and seeks to disciple the saved and witness to the lost about the glories of salvation through the cross and empty tomb of Christ.

I have a number of church planter friends who have planted churches of various sizes. Some have maintained a modest size, while others have churches which have exploded—so good to see!

Yet, when I go to these churches, I notice something distinctly missing. No, I’m not talking about an organ. I’m not talking about pews. I’m not talking about a traditional choir.

What I distinctly miss seeing is the gray haired people! And I believe that, without realizing it, many of these younger churches will miss that as well.

Titus 2 speaks of the beauty of a multigenerational church:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:1-10, ESV).

Titus pastored a multigenerational church where the older members would teach the younger members how to put their sound doctrine into sound living in all facets of their lives. A church simply wishing to reach the 20s-30s demographic of their particular culture should read and heed this—we need all generations represented in our churches for the sake of putting the gospel on the frontburner as we live and move in our jobs, our homes, and yes, our churches as well.

Some pastors may have been burned by older people who may be hanging on to the tradition and the former ‘feel’ of the church of days gone by. As a result, many pastors believe that the senior generation is the problem—so the fewer we have in our churches, the smoother the ride.

While I know this is often the case, especially in more established churches, if the pastor is honest, every generation has their particular ‘druthers’ of what they believe a church should be and wish to see that vision imposed executed to their desires. That older generation may have lived during a time in the church when the church was flourishing, and associate the flourishing with the methods with growth.

This is where the younger generation may teach the older generation about their times. When the various generations listen to one another, they may each glean a bit of wisdom from the other. The older generation has raised their children, worked at a job all their life, know a bit more about how to handle finances, and even better, know how to grow and sustain their Christian faith through all the seasons of life.

But the older generation, if they have a Bible-based, Spirit-driven motive, want to leave a legacy. They know that the times in the culture have changed. They know that church is not on the radar of the average person. So deep down, they want to see the legacy and gospel-witness of their church continue on. So they learn from the ‘young folks’ to see where they are and where the culture stands so that the church as a whole can look for more effective ways to connect with the surrounding neighbors, all the while staying firm and true to what the truth of Scripture speaks.

Hi. My name is Matthew Perry, and I pastor a semi-traditional, multigenerational Baptist church.

And I thank God for it daily!

Matt Perry serves as the Lead Pastor of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, Colorado. He earned his M.Div and D.Min from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

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