Are we abusing the senior church members by not being intergenerational?

I had a stimulating discussion last week, with someone who has done much to advance the cause of Child and Family Ministry in Australia. During  that conversation, what has, to me, become a very common question with respect to anything to do with children in the church came up and that is the question about whether the concept/practice is abusive to the children? We were, on this occasion, discussing the issue of children in worship. Many people have written about this issue, either academically or within the blogging community so there are a few views out there, on both sides of the fence. Now I could dive in and add to the body of work. But I started to think differently about this issue. Are we abusing the senior church members by not being intergenerational?

These are some of the things that came quickly to mind.

What we have learnt about the ageing brain is that if we don’t use it we lose it, we need to stay engaged and we will not continue to grow our mind by doing the same things. Change and challenge is an essential part of maintaining brain health in the elderly. When we change our worship processes we are staying engaged, our minds are being stimulated.

As a teacher, I learnt about multiple intelligences. In a traditional worship service, we may not be engaging all of our ways of learning, thus by introducing different ways of learning into the worship experience we are opening our seniors up to stimulation and change. This may not be happening in other areas of their lives.

In an intergenerational environment, everyones experience can inspire others and it is an environment that encourages the senior to share their experience and to be valued for whom they are. Their more complex life stories can encourage and inspire others.

One of the experiences I valued most was the smile that would cross an elderly wheelchair bound member of our community, when the children were moved to the front of the church and she could see them. She had no children or grandchildren, and during worship was the only time that her life was filled by the wonders of children.

The Australian Human rights Commission, states that

There are certain human rights and freedoms that are particularly relevant to older people, including the right to:

• an adequate standard of living including access to adequate food, clothing and housing• the highest possible standard of physical and mental health
• work and fair working conditions
• be safe and free from violence

• be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

• privacy
• family life.

Click to access HRA_older.pdf


At church we often feed body and soul,

Our elderly often “work” alongside others

we need to work for a safe environment for all

as a Child of God, they are participating in God’s family.

Thus church is a place where these human rights can be experienced, an Intergenerational experience at church is one that deepens these opportunities, and allows opportunity to grow, or at best maintain brain function.

To abuse is to not allow the senior to experience their rights. Rather than placing them on the outer, an Intergenerational approach seeks to engage all, value everyone, and experience worship in a multi intelligent format.

Now over to you


Wendy L.


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