This was the definition offered by Church-English Dictionary (out of print) for “All Age Worship”.  And I think that does actually neatly encapsulate a problem.  And it’s this.  Society has probably never been more stratified by age.  Go back a hundred years or so, and your life was likely to take much the same course as your parents’.  And their parents’.  If you were rich, you would idly idle the way they had in the same stately home.  If you were poor, you’d dig the same coal or work the same fields.  If you were in  between you’d inherit the same business.  But your lifestyle would not be massively changed.  There was no music industry generating new music for you to love and your parents to hate.  No large changes in societal attitudes putting distance between you and previous generations.  No youth subcultures offering an identity contrasted both with others of one’s peers and even more strongly with one’s predecessors.

And in such a homogenous culture, one size fits all church offerings worked.  People related to pretty much the same things, regardless of their age.  This is why, I’d suggest, All Age Worship is something we’ve only heard of in recent decades.  There was simply no issue in the past.  Now there is, and we realise that we have to do something about worship forms that don’t work across the generations.  But I’m less than convinced that we are very good at actually doing it successfully.  “All Age Worship”, “Family Services” and “Children’s Services” should be three very different things.  Generally, they aren’t.  They’re all the third one – and this isn’t surprising, because children have short attention spans so quickly switch off from anything that isn’t speaking to them.

I wish I was offering a solution to this one, but I’m not, because I don’t have one.  Perhaps there isn’t one.  Perhaps we need to accept that there is no form of worship that works for Ada Brady who’s 92 and also for the kids, teenagers and young adults of the parish.  Are we better off accepting that and providing a plurality of service forms?

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