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

Church should not be youth VS older adults July 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 6:38 am

Not long ago, a Twitter follower asked me if I ever felt like I was swimming upstream. I remember laughing out loud at my desk when I read his question before letting my mind sink into deeper thoughts.

I think I knew what he meant. Do I feel like I am going against the tide when I herald the importance of ministry to, for and with older adults in a church culture that is focused on how to reinvigorate dying congregations and how to effectively minister to youth and young adults?

The short answer is yes. It seems as if many church leaders and ministers are giving me a token pat on the head, acknowledging my effort but silently wishing me to go away. To them I am like the pesky fly that won’t leave you alone at a picnic.

The thing that really drives me crazy though is when people insist on framing issues of graying churches as though it is a youth VS older adults problem, pitting one group against the other. I have heard ministers make statements that pointedly blame older adults for filling the pews of dying congregations as though they should all quit attending church.

Let me be clear. I am NOT anti-youth. I love kids. I once was one myself, and I have raised three children and watched them grow into terrific young adults. I have invested countless hours and energy into VBS, youth Sunday school, children’s choir and UMYF.  The youth are our future and we need them to help us seriously “rethink church”. 

But not to the exclusion of older adults, including those dreaded “stuck-in-the-mud” kind of aging people. Because even those who are rigid and narrowly-focused need Christ, too.  Gratefully my experience has been that most older adults have generous servant hearts, but I will keep advocating for all of them, especially those who are forgotten and frail. 

After all, I hear that swimming upstream makes you stronger.

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One Response to “Church should not be youth VS older adults”

  1. Tim Colling Says:

    Missy – I know what you mean. I have watched a number of churches go through this conflict, including the one that my parents attend (they’re in their late seventies and they live nearby and are in good health, praise God!).

    My wife and I own a business that helps Seniors stay at home rather than having to move to facilities when they begin to need help, and we’re also committed Christians. We understand the issues facing older adults and we have seen this conflict in churches before.

    I think that part of the conflict arises from the fact that there are many different styles of worship and that people are naturally drawn to some styles more than others. In churches that have only one worship “venue” or sanctuary, this can lead to conflict because the style that older adults prefer may be very traditional, which doesn’t appeal to young adults and teenagers, and vice-versa. Many churches then try to address this conflict by having multiple service “types”, one after another, every weekend.

    Take a look at the website for North Coast Church, at http://www.northcoastchurch.com. That’s the church that I attend. We have multiple worship venues, each with its own style of worship music. After the worship music time, at all the venues the sermon is shown on large video screens, coming from the pastor teaching live in one of the venues. By doing it this way, at every service there are venues available for each style of worship that still all receive the same (really great) teaching.

    There’s a lot more to it than that. We have 80% of the church’s weekend adult attendance participating in mid-week small group home meetings, we have great church staff who take care of the congregation’s needs across all age groups, and more. But it all comes back to offering different worship venues with different worship styles that make it possible for almost anyone to find a style that works for them.

    God bless you and don’t give up!

    – Tim


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