In a culture divided by opinion, worldview, and lifestyle, generational differences are perhaps more stark than ever–even in the church.
In fact, in a 2009 article from Christianity Today, author and pastor Jon Ortberg makes the claim, “...even in the Bible, one of the ways that human community becomes disrupted is the generational divide. If the generational divide was a gap then, it is a canyon now.”
Different generations tend to communicate differently, have different opinions about the way things should be done, and often have different preferences on worship music, service times, and culture. Those differences can sometimes result in frustration or division–making it challenging to build a church together.
The goal is not to eliminate differences, but to create a community where members of every age group and generation can participate and be built up in Christ.
One solution to this challenge may lie in a surprising place–technology.
Though technology has often been associated with “young people,”, we’re now entering an age when every generation is becoming more proficient users of the Internet, digital devices, social media, and software tools.
In other words, technology can help bring us together to become a healthier, more engaged community of Christ-followers in the 21st century.
That being said, here are 8 ways to build a multigenerational community with technology.
#1: Build an app.
Using an iPhone or smartphone might be associated with younger generations, but in fact, older adults are using mobile devices more and more frequently. From 2018 to 2020, the number of adults ages 50 and older who used smartphones went from 70% to 77%–compared to about 50% in 2014. In fact, according to AARP, “people ages 50 and older use smartphones, wearable technology, and smart home technology at about the same pace as younger adults.”
The bottom line? Smartphone apps aren’t just for the 40 and under crowd.
In fact, a church app can help bring generations together in a number of ways:
- Engagement – An app can help members of all ages quickly and conveniently engage with church events, announcements, teaching, worship, and giving.
- Communication – An app can help keep everyone on the same page. In an age when church might feel more disjointed than ever–with some members staying at home, or attending with different frequency as a result of COVID-19–using an app can help churches communicate the same consistent message to all members.
- Fellowship – Finally, an app can help all members of the church fellowship together through shared Bible-reading, prayer requests, and more.
Ultimately, an app can’t substitute for face-to-face relationships and in-person attendance–but it can help connect people across the generations.
#2: Offer online giving.
One of the most important aspects of building a church is giving. Giving reflects the heart of God, and it also brings blessing to church members of every age.
Malachi 3:10 says,
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
It’s important that every generation in the church has vision for giving. Whether that’s a Gen Z-er who makes $15 an hour, a 45-year-old entrepreneur bringing in hundreds of thousands a year, or a retiree who collects monthly payments and stock market dividends, every person can play their part to build the Kingdom through generosity.
Of course, one way you’ll want to encourage members in this area is through Biblical messages on tithes and offerings.
Another way to encourage generosity is to provide a platform for online giving–such as with Tithe.ly. Not only does online giving make it simple and convenient to tithe or donate, but it can actually increase giving and make financial management more efficient.
#3: Stream services.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw an extraordinary uptick in streaming services. All over much of the world, Christ followers found new ways to fellowship and worship from home–with online church becoming a lifeline of support.
Online church also created avenues for people who don’t typically attend church to participate in the Body of Christ. According to Biola University professor Gary McIntosh, “Online really is a way to reach people that maybe we couldn’t reach in a local setting because some people wouldn’t come into a church building.”
And, according to Pew Research Center, even as a majority of church attendees in the U.S. weren’t able to attend in-person services in the U.S., 24% of U.S. adults said that their faith was stronger as a result of the pandemic.
The bottom line? Not being able to attend church in person doesn’t have to derail someone’s faith….or stop the church from reaching new people.
Post-COVID-19, online church may continue to be an important part of life for church members (and seekers) of every age. With younger church members potentially missing live church due to unusual work schedules, middle-aged church members staying home with little ones, and older church members staying home due to safety or health concerns, streaming services can become a wonderful way for all generations to engage.
#4: Use technology to help church transitions go smoothly.
Many Christ followers have experienced some kind of a church transition during their walk with Christ–whether that’s a new church plant, a church split, or the amalgamation of two churches together.
Oftentimes, church transitions can feel challenging in different ways for different generations–including Gen Zers, Millennials, GenXers, Boomers, and the so-called Silent Generation.
For younger generations, church transitions may become reasons to stop attending services, or to drift away from community. For older generations, transitions may bring jarring change that can feel logistically challenging or painful.
In any case, church transition can be hard on anyone, of any age.
That’s why technology can be so helpful for making transition easier, smoother, and more efficient. Not only can a church management system help make the administrative and logistical challenge of church transition easier; but a messaging platform, an app, a cohesive website, and online giving can help keep everyone feeling connected.
#5: Use a digital church management system.
As mentioned in #4, using a church management system can be tremendously helpful for managing transition and change–not to mention, making church administration more efficient.
But using a digital church management system–such as with Tithe.ly–has an additional benefit that may be commonly overlooked: Church management can help staff members of every generation work better together.
A church management system can help a multigenerational staff and church in the following ways:
- Easy-to-use messaging allows leaders to communicate with members of every age upcoming events, prayer requests, praise reports, or more–all on a single platform.
- Admin and operations tools can help multigenerational church staff efficiently communicate and coordinate together to make sure church services and events are running smoothly.
- Volunteer check-in and management make it easy to recruit volunteers of every age, and can help them participate, do their part, and give their best.
Finally, using a church management system–especially one with an easy-to-use, clear interface–can help create smoother workflows for all staff members...helping them to collaborate together, and advance the Kingdom of God.
#6: Offer online registration for events.
Events outside of Sunday services–such as worship nights, prayer meetings, Bible studies, conferences, and more–are some of the most powerful moments in church for multiple generations to gather, fellowship, and learn from one another.
That’s why communicating well about those events is so important; it gives all members of the church an opportunity to learn about the event and sign up.
Online registration seems like a simple strategy for success, but it can make a huge difference in terms of event attendance and awareness–and ultimately, brings in church members of every age.
#7: Keep people at the center of everything.
A multigenerational church creates space for a range of ages and generations. It seeks to serve not just a single generation (young or old), but everybody in the Body. It values the perspectives, gifts, and life experiences of young people, older adults, and everyone in between.
That being said, remember that technology is simply a tool for serving people. Keep people at the center of your strategy–and you’ll see the fruit of seeking to build a thriving, multigenerational church.
Here are some examples of what that looks like:
- Use technology to facilitate communication (such as with a church management system or messaging, as mentioned above) to help staff members of all ages communicate internally, manage members and volunteers, and plan events...
- Get creative about the kind of worship music, social media, and on-site branding you use to create a warm, inviting atmosphere that serves all ages….
- Offer online options for attending church, listening to messages, and communicating with church leadership…..
- Seek feedback from church members on how you can use technology to serve your members–and community–well.
At the end of the day, a “people-centered” approach isn’t about building a cooler, more relevant church; it’s about building a church that loves people more, serves them well, and uses its resources to serve the Kingdom of God.
#8: Create media that speaks to everyone.
It’s no secret that we live in a content-driven world. Daily, we see thousands of ads, posts, and pieces of content asking for our time and attention (It’s estimated that the average American sees 6,000-10,000 ads per day, compared to 500-1,600 ads per day in the 1970’s).
It’s also no secret that digital content shapes the way we think, perceive the world, and what we believe about ourselves–and even God.
Whether for better or for worse, digital media is here to stay.
Fortunately, your church has an opportunity to use media and content to inspire, encourage, and even edify your multigenerational church. And don’t make the mistake of thinking your older church members don’t look at social media. According to Pew Research, 69% of adults between 50-64 and 40% of adults 65+ use social media.
Here are several strategies you can use to create Kingdom-driven social media that speaks to all members of your congregation:
- Be encouraging. It may sound obvious, but use your social media to be encouraging and uplifting. More than ever, people are inundated with bad news and divisive content. While you’ll want to speak to current events with gravity and authenticity, you’ll also want to use social media as an opportunity to give hope and bring people back to Truth.
- Be consistent. One of the best ways to create a voice through social media is to be consistent and post frequently. That’s easier said than done. Pastors, church admins, and other leaders are often busy, overwhelmed professionals with very little free time or additional “brain space” for generating new content.
Tithe.ly media is a great resource for churches to quickly and conveniently create beautiful, inspiring content. Not only does it save time on trying to come up with content; it’s also an easy way to create a consistent brand.
- Use content to engage. One of the best things about social media is that it allows you to actively interact with users and viewers. In other words, when a church member comments on your post, you can comment right back.
This is a great way to stay connected with church members–especially when some church members may still be staying at home for health or safety reasons.
God’s Heart for the Generations
The bottom line? Technology can be a powerful way to build up your church–and reach church members of every age and generation.
In Genesis 17:7, God says to Abraham,
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”
In other words, God’s heart is that the knowledge of His promises and faithfulness would be passed on from generation to generation.
Only a multigenerational church can reflect this beautiful aspect of God’s character, by building a community where the generations can encourage one another, share life, build Christlike character, and advance the Kingdom of God–together.