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Multigenerational Worship

Multigenerational worship is about more than the Story for All Ages or having the children in the sanctuary every once in a while for what is, essentially, the same service the adults experience every week. "Multigenerational worship" is a term that is used to recognize that in our congregations there is often a wide spectrum of ages present—from the infant to the elder.

"Intergenerational" was the term of choice for some time, yet many today think that it implies a duality of old and young, adults and children. The reality in our congregations, though is far more complex and infinitely more rich. Toddlers, elementary aged children, teenagers, young adults, and the varying life stages of adulthood each have their own ways of viewing the world and interacting with it, their own developmental needs, their own set of spiritual questions and concerns. Multigenerational worship is worship that is designed to embrace this variegated tapestry—both its challenges and its opportunities.

How do you reach across generational "lines" in ways that bring the whole family of the congregation together? A fascinating article from the Alban Institute, "Generational Worship in a Multigenerational World," is worth looking at. And in October of 2008 the Mid-America Staff Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) District Staff offered a workshop titled "Ten Good Ideas About Multi-Generational Worship" in an effort to answer just such a question.

Another great resource is the Creating Effective Intergenerational Worship website created by the Rev. Greg Ward. In addition to some wonderful background and theory about multigenerational worship, this site is also concrete and practical—it has a collection of scripts for you to download! There are also some full services/scripts in the WorshipWeb database. Search with the keyword "multigenerational."

Over the years the UUA publication InterConnections has published some wonderful articles having to do with various aspects of childrens', youths', young adults', and multigenerational worship.  As a convenience we have provided a compilation.

The UUA Bookstore carries Michelle Richard's book Come Into the Circle: Worshiping with Children as well as the new book by the Rev. Erika Hewitt, Story, Song and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages.

Looking beyond our own Association, the website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship for the Study and Renewal of Worship has a very full page devoted to multigenerational worship. These resources are clearly written from and for the Christian tradition, yet with some translation they can be tremendously helpful to our congregations as well.

Another resource entitled "'Com-passion:' A Theological Foundation for Intergenerational Worship" by Rev. John Tolley discusses a theological reflection on multigenerational worship.

Stories

The ultimate resource is the online list of children's books (PDF, 22 pages) compiled by Rev. Paul Beckel. There's nothing else as comprehensive out there—it currently has over 300 books or stories arranged by themes. You can also access the a list of all of the stories that are used in the UUA's Tapestry of Faith curricula.

As for anthologies, here are some suggestions:

A final piece of advice is to cultivate a relationship with your local children's librarian. These professionals typically are wonderful people who absolutely love the challenge of finding the perfect book.

For more information contact worshipweb @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

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