As we explore what it means to be an intergenerational family of God, there are legitimate questions about how to communicate the Gospel. Unfortunately our recent structures have allowed us the inconvenience of separation; which has ultimately rendered us unable to adequately communicate to various generations. This problem is only exacerbated when you get multiple generations in the same room. Here’s an offering of my thoughts on how to best preach in a context where multiple generations are present.
1. Choose a target age group and aim for that. In other words, think through which of the generations has something in common with both those above and below them. Preach in a way that will connect with them so that you might potentially connect with everybody. Don’t stress perfection; but only do what is possible. In my experience, this target is still a fairly young age group. I’ve often aimed for high school seniors/college freshman.
2. Tell lots of stories. If the story can be followed by everyone and helps to illustrate the scriptures in some way: use it. Stories will always engage an audience and done properly can interest both the intellect and emotions of our listeners. In addition, personal stories carry even greater weight. The vulnerability of sharing your life with the audience is powerful tool which can effectively cross the generational gaps.
3. Avoid obscure cultural references that will alienate any generation. This can be hard when we find that perfect illustration/story/reference to illustrate our points. However, our illustrations are meant to illuminate the scriptures to our audience rather than alienate them. Keeping this in mind will help us avoid the temptation to use something which ultimately will not bear the fruit which it is intended to bear. In Lectures to My Students, C.H. Spurgeon observes that illustrations are meant to shed light into the Gospel, much like a window is meant to shed light into a room. To carry Spurgeon’s illustration further, we should avoid using windows that will not let light in.
4. Be intentional about the application for all generations. If we are accustomed to preaching to young people our tendency will be to forget the later life stages. The opposite is also true; potentially causing others to forget the life stage of our youth. Generally speaking, we must consider where and how each generation lives as we prepare to speak from the Word into their lives. For example; avoid only drawing applications for marriage and family or student life.
5. Speak well of all generations and life stages. It seems that if we’re to be whole communities, we all need to maintain accurate and positive perspectives of other life stages. We must avoid the temptation to dismiss and/or stereotype an entire generation of people. They will eventually become discouraged by our lack of concern for them which can also deter from the fruit we intend to bear.
No one said that this is or would be easy. It’s not something that can be taken lightly and cannot be done perfectly; certainly not all the time. However, the desired fruit is worth both the risk and the learning curve!