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Intergenerational Worship & What it’s like Writing Songs with my Dad

Growing up a WPK (worship pastor’s kid), I was exposed to worship music from a very young age. A year after my first guitar lesson, with the encouragement of my youth leaders, the eleven-year-old me was learning to lead worship on a tiny youth group stage with a handful of three- and four-chord songs. It was two years later that I began singing with my dad in “big church.” I definitely developed a passion for worship, and actually really enjoyed doing ministry alongside my dad—even through those awkward emo teenage years where I preferred to wear my hair over my eyes and wished I could start my own version of Paramore.

Going to worship conferences through the years, I would always hear various speakers, pastors, and workshop instructors stress the importance of intergenerational worship. The thing is, I didn’t really see much representation of intergenerational worship in these environments. I’d mostly see teams of young people all dressed the same, surrounded by the sound of synthesizers and flashes of fancy lights—which in and of themselves are not bad things! But it seemed to me like there was some sort of template set where most American churches believed their worship music would only be effective if it was all young and hip 100% of the time.

My dad is a songwriter, and I am as well, but before last year, we’d never taken a stab at actually writing something together. When I was younger I was leaning towards writing CCM music, but since I was about eighteen I decided I’d like to pursue what some folks would refer to as a “secular” music career. Separately, though, I’ve always had in interest in also creating songs specifically for the church. Writing church music is something my dad had done for quite some time. Through the years, I had made a few attempts at writing a worship song on my own, but I was never satisfied with how they turned out.

One day, my dad decided to show me a worship song he was working on, which was based on an old hymn that I had never heard.

He wanted me to listen to it and help him figure out how it could be improved upon. Because I came into the situation without the original melody in my head, I was able to completely rework the melody, and we worked together to change around and add some lyrics. Eventually, our first song “O to be Like You” was completed!

It was actually a really fun and unique songwriting experience, not just because he’s my dad, but because we come from different generations. He grew up singing hymns in church. I grew up with modern worship. He excels in music theory and has a background in jazz. I mostly play by ear and enjoy alternative and pop. He went to Bible school and is knowledgeable when it comes to theology. I have a passion for words and storytelling that stemmed from a lifelong love of books.

With intergenerational songwriting, you are bringing your own unique life experience to the table. You’re in totally different stages of life. You have completely different strengths and weaknesses. You will probably approach a situation from completely different angles. And the thing is, this is an accurate representation of the people in our churches. Yes, there are young adults. There are also great-grandpas, middle-aged moms, angsty pre-teens and everything in between.

Writing worship songs, we go into it with the mindset that we’re writing the prayers of our church. This is what liturgy is! It’s the prayers of the people. And whether you come from a tiny traditional church or a massive mega-church, your church family is going to have a melting pot of people of different ages and backgrounds.

A lot of the songs on our A Beautiful Liturgy EP came from familiar old hymns (or were based on the traditional church calendar), but we took their words and concepts and tried to present them in a way that is modern and beautiful. The goal was to make something that older folks would enjoy equally with younger people, that we could take a theological statement or an ancient lyric and make it new again.

Writing worship songs with my dad has made me realize just how important it is that our worship isn’t just catering to one generation or one kind of person. We all come from a different place, but we step into a church as a family, and our prayer is as one. I don’t think we should care about feeling like we are cool—that shouldn’t be the point! I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to co-write with my dad, and it’s shown me just how valuable intergenerational collaboration in worship can be. It is my hope that we can use our project to encourage other church families (whether blood-related or not!) to collaborate with one another in worship leading and songwriting!