The College of Theology and Christian Ministry (CTCM) at Belmont University has been awarded a $1.25 million, five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. for “In Every Generation,” a project focused on developing opportunities to nurture children through intergenerational worship.
Drs. Steve Guthrie, Belmont Professor of Theology and Adam Perez, Professor of Worship Studies are overseeing efforts for the project, seeking to understand how intergenerational worship can make an impact in Church communities and in the lives of children.
“By intergenerational worship, we don’t mean Vacation Bible School or Children’s Church” Guthrie explained. “We’re talking about ways of bringing together people of different ages in worship. “That can be difficult, because people have different needs at different stages of life. Church leaders must be very intentional to create a worship culture that includes a diversity of ages and stages of life.”
The grant aims to draw together three constituencies to explore the issue of intergenerational worship: scholars, church leaders, and Nashville musicians and music industry representatives.
Guthrie and Perez hosted a collaborative luncheon where partners from these stakeholder groups shared their insight on intergenerational worship to inform the project. “The luncheon was extraordinarily valuable,” Guthrie said. “We discovered a great deal of interest in this conversation, but we also learned a lot about the challenges to developing worship that is genuinely intergenerational.”
The project will work to understand and address age-based separation within the church along a natural trajectory from learning, to teaching to implementation. All throughout the process, the “In Every Generation” team will collaborate with a cohort of local partner churches to better apply the work.
Research has shown that intergenerational worship has implications for a child’s spiritual connection as they transition into adulthood. The “Sticky Faith” strategy from the Fuller Youth Institute shows parents and ministry leaders how to actively encourage their young people’s spiritual growth so that it will stick with them into adulthood and concludes that each young person is greatly benefited when surrounded by a team of five adults, called the new 5:1 ratio.
“We are seeking to find ways for the church to worship as a ‘diversified unity,’” Guthrie said. “We see the Apostle Paul get excited about this idea in Ephesians when he speaks of unexpected people coming together to worship in the church. That kind of unity was uncommon then, and it’s uncommon now, but it’s meant to be one of the marks of the church. This project seeks to understand how we can apply this same idea intergenerationally.”
This five-year implementation grant is the second awarded disbursement after Belmont received a planning grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in the fall of 2022 for this project.