As thunderstorms sweep through on summer evenings, thunder rolls and lightning sears the sky. When storms of dissension rile churches, lightning often strikes in the areas of youth and music.
In both of these areas, we stumble over generational preferences. Each generation may come to Jesus with the same heart, but the words we use, the tunes (and rhythms) we enjoy, the activities we engage in are different. In our zeal for Jesus, we can confuse preferences for Gospel essentials.
Unless we belong to a “niche” church that focuses on a single generation, we want to be a church that encompasses male and female, rich and poor, old and young—every swath of our local demographic—“for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).
For youth leaders and workers, this means respecting the sensitivities of adults in the church. Amid the current phenomenon of “helicopter” and “snowplow” parents, coaches of youth sports teams are learning that, to build a good team, they must actively cultivate the understanding and support of parents. Similarly, a good rule for youth leaders is, among everything else you do, to be sure to get parents and adults on your side.
Church musicians need to consider two constituencies: people in the church and the ones still to come. What music styles can bridge the preferences of both? Since the aim is to prompt worship, what (solid) texts and (singable) tunes draw people into the presence of Jesus? Vigorous singing, closed eyes, rapt faces, raised hands, even silence can indicate that worshipers are encountering Jesus. Heartfelt worship has an appeal that transcends style; it exudes a fragrance that brings life in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
When everyone is focused on the shared goal of seeing people of all ages come to Jesus and grow to be like him—that is, on the essentials of the Gospel—we can value and embrace a range of preferences that accommodate and hearten all (or at least most) of the people in our faith community; and, hopefully, avoid the lightning strikes of dissension.