Reflections on Aging Well

Author, Living with Purpose in a Worn-out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults (Upper Room) and Columnist, Aging Well, United Methodist Reporter

Youth in balcony, gray heads in pews: coming together for Christ July 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 7:25 am

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to deliver the message to both worship services at a United Methodist Church in North Texas.  I had been invited to speak about navigating old age and the role of the church. 

 I sat on the front pew during the hymns and prayers.  I delighted in the handful of precious kids who made their way to the steps for the children’s sermon.  But it was not until I stood up and faced the congregation to give the message that I noticed the group of youth sitting together in the balcony.  I had to smile to myself because it brought back memories of my own youth, sitting away from the authoritative glances of elders. 

 During the message, I found myself gazing up at the balcony almost as often as I looked into the eyes of the older folks sitting in the pews below.  Taking it all in, I reminded the congregation that the aging process was designed by God.  We are intended to be connected to each other, generation to generation.

 As I told heartfelt stories about older adults who had impacted my life, I began to notice several elderly folks dabbing their eyes with crumpled tissues.  Before I finished, I saw a few teens brush tears from their cheeks, too.

 I knew it wasn’t because of my speaking ability.  It was because stories have a way of moving people to think and feel differently. 

 When we really listen to each other’s life stories, our perceptions are changed.  The frail, white-haired widow becomes the adventurous woman of her youth who once rode to the Chicago World’s Fair in the rumble seat of a Model A.  Similarly, the teenager with three piercings in one ear is realized as a gifted music teacher for inner-city children on a summer mission trip.  

 By sharing life stories, we begin to see that the fears and longings of a teenager are not so unlike those of a frail great-grandmother.  

 In the balcony or in the pews below, we are all children of God.

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One Response to “Youth in balcony, gray heads in pews: coming together for Christ”

  1. Glenn Miller Says:

    Missy, great post! A very funny thing here in my church is that the youth sit at the front of the church together and some with their families. Our balcony is filled with young families or empty nesters and the rest has the the other families and those with graying hair or a few with blue hair. LOL… Great post with tons of memories for me having grown up in many churches like that.
    Recently you asked in a twitter what young people wished older ones knew about them. Well after 20 years of working with younger ones and a few older ones along the way. Without oversimplifing the answer; I have come to understand it this way. Younger folks want to be for the most part where the older ones are. Accomplished! Refined! Wiser! Showing less fear like older people seem to! Comfortable in their own skin. My experience is younger people look up to those above them chronologically and respect where they are and of course there is the over-populized views about these huge generational gaps. Mostly to me it seems those gaps are present to cover one thing. Fear! Fear of the unkown and frailty from the younger and fear from the known and frailty from the wiser.
    I don’t know I perhaps just entered into a babble which is congruent with my aging self, but in youth ministry if you don’t pay attention to those gaps you never achieve the true definition of “church” – the body of Christ. Being in the middle with aging parents and working with teens and raising a teen and pre-teen, I do find myself stopping and realizing the similarities all too often and with the young families that we have, they too want the same. In fact, we have recently began looking at a mentoring situation for our young mothers in the church where they will be paired up with an older lady who can mentor the younger through those early steps of parenting, wifedom and so forth. The younger women asked for this!
    Oh well, me and the girls are great. It is fun to keep up with you and your family via technology. Thanks for serving the way you do and God Bless your ministry!!

    Glenn


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