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.