Recently I spent an afternoon with an 85 year-old friend. She’s the sort of jovial woman every young person would love as a grandmother. In fact, I doubt that this gray-haired dynamo has ever seen a glass half-empty in her entire life.
We talked about a variety of topics, but when she mentioned that she had recently visited her young-adult granddaughter’s church, my ears really perked up. I knew this to be a non-traditional, youthful congregation that uses a full-range of the latest technology and electronic music.
I listened intently as she shared her experience. She was so impressed by the dedication of the young adults who greeted her and made her feel welcome. She thought the minister’s message was powerful and the music was uplifting and vibrant. She was amazed by the video clips and the images on the screens. She also took special pride in telling me about her granddaughter’s involvement on mission teams.
Then she paused for a moment as if to decide whether or not to continue. She lowered her head as if she was afaid to utter the words. Finally she said, “I feel guilty for saying this because I am so thankful that my granddaughter’s church is reaching young people, but I must be truthful. My old heart wasn’t moved during that worship service. I really tried to be open to the young people’s style of worship, I really tried to be worshipful in spirit… but I left feeling as if I had failed. I know at my own church, everything is about attracting the youth. Some church leaders make us old folks feel bad just because we like old hymns and stained glass. It speaks to our generation. It’s not that we don’t want them to have their own services with their own way of doing things, but it just doesn’t seem right to tell us that our way is out-dated and wrong.”
It was an insightful interaction. I certainly applaud the grandmother for stepping out of her comfort zone. She is no stick-in-the-mud, nay-saying older adult. She understands and supports the importance of reaching out to young people. At the same time, she feels that her church is making her feel guilty for prefering more traditional elements of worship.
The point is, it’s not a matter of one side being right and the other wrong. What speaks to one generation may not speak to another. That’s nothing new. But can’t we be a church that can stretch its arms enough to lovingly embrace all generations? I’m just sayin’….