How can we build an all-age church community that really works for everyone?

All Together Now

We can all complain about technology taking over our lives, but here’s a great example of how it can be used to build the Kingdom. On 10 October, the Methodist Church, with help from BRF and Shared Media, hosted a conference asking how we can create churches where people can really journey together, regardless of their age or life experience.

What is ‘intergenerational church’?

The ‘intergenerational’ vision describes a place where ‘everyone’s discipleship is impacted and people of all ages grow in faith alongside and with one another’. It’s a theme that chimes very loudly with BRF’s children’s and families’ work. Jane Butcher (BRF’s Children’s and Families’ ministry) and Martyn Payne (Messy Church) are both pioneers working at the cutting edge of children’s ministry, and were involved in organising and presenting at the event.

So: how can we build a community where the intergenerational whole is better than the sum of its young, old and in-between parts? Isn’t that what we do anyway on a Sunday? The church is, after all, one of the few places where the generations do still come together. The Methodist Church’s 2015 report We are Family, which inspired the conference, had established how important this was for most churches.

All-age services aren’t quite enough

In an ideal world, ‘intergenerational church’ would be a given. Young Christians would benefit enormously from good relationships with older role models at church, and their energy and enthusiasm would in turn support and encourage older members of the congregation. But with the speed of social change driving an ever greater wedge through the generations, overcoming the communication gap has never been more challenging. All-age services can only go so far. Young and old both need help, to build understanding and a common life.


All Together Now Conference flyer

Messy Church leading the way

BRF’s Messy Church programme provides a vivid example of where this can be seen to work. All ages are welcome and can play a fulfilling role in preparing and guiding craft activities, food and refreshments, storytelling and worship. Messy Church team leader, and author of Messy Togetherness: Being intergenerational in Messy Church, Martyn Payne was at the conference to share ideas, and give practical tips.

Watch Martyn's session

Messy Church

What did people think?

If the comments are anything to go by, it went well. 18 churches and ecumenical groups gathered to view the live video-stream in venues up and down the country, as well as those watching on their own.

One church wrote:

We had 16 (Methodists and Anglicans) watching at the Village Hall and another four who watched at home. Everyone found it stimulating and challenging. Living in North Devon, we are often isolated from courses like this, so having something streamed to us [online] is brilliant.

If the feedback is anything to go by, this is only the start of a conversation that promises to bear good fruit in the months and years ahead... in the words of one remote participant ‘I hope this is just the beginning’.

View all sessions from the conference