May 28, 2017

What about THIS “cutting edge”?

Abbey elders

What are churches in the U.S. doing to advance this “cutting edge” ministry?

Census data tells the story. From 2000 to 2010, those people age 45 to 64 (the boomers) increased 31.5%. The next highest increase was those 65+, who increased over the same period by 15.1% (source: US Census at www.census.gov/2010census/) It is projected that by 2025 there will be more persons 85 years old (the boomers again) than 5 year olds.

• Donald R. Koepke

In an article in the Lutheran Caring Connections journal, Donald Koepke notes how the post-WWII “baby boom” has driven the agenda for the church for many years now.

  • In post-war America, we saw the rise of a massive youth culture and thus church and parachurch groups began to emphasize “youth ministry.”
  • When the boomers entered adulthood and began families, the church suddenly began to “focus on the family.”

However, now that we (yes, I am a BB) are turning gray by the tens of millions, I for one do not see any corresponding growth in emphasis on ministering to older adults.

I understand that my perspective is limited, influenced by my own experience and otherwise anecdotal, but if people like me (and Michael Spencer before me) offer any kind of example, then what I see are churches who are failing to take this next step and who are losing aging BBs because they haven’t conceived how to minister to people outside the “youth and family” model that has long characterized local congregations.

In brief, one reason for the “post-evangelical wilderness” that so many of us aging BBs are traversing is that churches, and “cutting edge” evangelical churches in particular, have not aged with us and have little clue about what Christian spirituality in older age is all about.

It has left many of us feeling like we have “outgrown” the church as it exists and functions in its current forms.

It also betrays the church’s cultural captivity to maintaining a certain level of energy and spectacle, a high level of activism (or more cynically, busyness), and forms of teaching and preaching (and marketing) that are more designed to whip up enthusiasm and loyalty for certain “brands” or “positions” than to actually form people and congregations in Christ and in the world through all the different seasons and circumstances of life.

I’ve not heard of a movement to create “cutting edge” ministries for older adults. I’m not aware that churches are eagerly searching for “elder pastors” in the same way that they are seeking “youth pastors.” Tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see churches targeting over-50 communities strategically or putting spiritual vitality for seniors front and center in their vision statements. Few congregations are changing their “worship style” to appeal specifically to older people. Visitation pastors are usually low on the staff totem pole, if they make it on to the staff at all.

I’m not saying churches don’t have programs for older folks, but they are certainly not central to the church’s ministry, in my experience and to my observing eyes. Worse, like “singles,” churches tend to lump “old people” together and think that after a certain age everyone is facing the same issues. Yet, as Joan Chittister reminds us in her book, The Gift of Years:

There are, gerontologists tell us, three stages of “old” in our society. There are the young old, sixty-five to seventy-four years old; the old old, seventy-five to eighty-four; and the oldest old, at eighty-five years and over. All of these stages have some things in common— and each of them faces specific issues at the same time.

Where are the church “gerontologists” who are studying this and developing strategies for encouraging people in these groups spiritually?

Listen, we are talking about one of the largest demographic groups this world has ever seen! Still, it seems the church has little vision to reach them or to help them understand what it means to have a “Jesus-shaped spirituality” in one’s later years.

I know it’s now true that the Millennial generation has surpassed the BBs to become the largest living generation. I understand why the church is so concerned about ministering to them and including them in its life.

But for heaven’s sake, there are about 75 million graying people out here too. And many of us are asking, “What does life with Jesus look like when I’m 65? 75? 85? older?”

What does it mean to follow Jesus in the late autumn and winter of our lives?

And why don’t churches seem to care?

Comments

  1. Boomers and Millenials… peas in a pod. “My needs.”

    Of course there is little vision to reach aging Boomers; they themselves built the youth/family culture for themselves and their kids. They never bothered to train or model care for those who weren’t themselves or their families.. And that comes back to bite.

    Toss in that Xers, who are now starting to take the lead, are well aware of Boomer and Mil needy self-centredness and try to avoid it, and… well, there’s a reaping of what has been sown.

    As a consequence I witness many Boomers dropping out. Not of church attendance, but rather of involvement.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > they themselves built the youth/family culture for themselves and their kids

      Of course they did, who else do you create culture for? It is always for ‘us’.

      > Toss in that Xers, who are now starting to take the lead,

      Take the lead? No way. 🙂 I am X. We are the bottom point of the demographic “V”. We are the least engaged age demographic; which is fine with me. I think the Ms are generally pointed in a better direction.

      > As a consequence I witness many Boomers dropping out

      The most engaged people I know are mostly Boomers. I do see attrition, but it is mostly due to entering the “old old” phase of life. I [in my 40s] am the youngest person on the executive committee I serve on; and I am not unique in that experience. All the volunteer organizations purse the Millennials because that is just the math – if you want to survive you cannot just wait around – there is a demographic hole you need to jump over (the Xs).

      • “Take the lead? No way. 🙂 I am X. We are the bottom point of the demographic “V”. We are the least engaged age demographic; which is fine with me. I think the Ms are generally pointed in a better direction.”

        True to an extent (or should I say X-tent 🙂 ).

        In my own church experiences lately, the Boomers are dropping out. As you say, might be age. But it’s not just that (since some of them are still in their 50s). They do next to nothing… not even organize for themselves. Its’ as if they spent so much time first organizing for themselves (or expecting others to) and then maintaining those structures for their M youngsters that they don’t know how to run anything other than a seeker-sensitive, high-energy, fog-machine church event.

        Xers, if they are fringy at all, are such because that’s where they’ve been driven. The Xers I know are somewhat involved in the local church, but more deeply involved in their own small groups and related community ministry efforts.

        Frankly, most of the Ms that I’ve seen recently are following in their Boomer-parent footsteps. I.e., lots of M-focused youth groups, lots of idealism, and then – BOOM – a family… and all focus shifts there.

        So, yeah, probably better that Xers remain in the wings. Gives us more opportunity to do the wing-y thingies.

    • As a consequence I witness many Boomers dropping out. Not of church attendance, but rather of involvement.

      Same with Millennials when Boomers won’t relinquish control. We were promised manager jobs in our 30s, or at least benchmarked them by observing our parents. Now we don’t have them because there is no turnover. Church is much the same, when the young leaders aren’t allowed to lead.

    • Boomers and Millenials… peas in a pod. “My needs.”
      No.

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > And why don’t churches seem to care?

    I’ve sat in on flavors of this conversation being presented; although in a corporate or political context.

    1.) Older people are viewed as a ‘done deal’. They’ve picked their team, struck their colors, etc… They aren’t going to change affiliations.
    2.) Their numbers may be very large, but will only decline. However great their political influence, or their financial power, they are running out the clock; we have passed the apex. Whatever ‘wins’ you make are immediately diminishing.
    3.) It is either/or. You cannot market to both the Millennials and the Boomers. The Ms are notable in their lack of age-ism [they are fonder of their parents generation than previous generations] but they are distinct enough that the thought is that what appeals to one will not appeal to the other, so you need to pick (see #1).
    3.1.) For one thing Ms are significantly more racially diverse than BBs and have far more inter-racial marriages; this may not be appeal to a whole lot of BBs.

    Personally I am suspect of #3; there is also a lot of overlap between the needs of BBs and the preferences of Ms, especially as the BBs enter the ‘old old’ stage. But #1 & #2 are valid, from a marketing perspective.

    For churches there may be a #4 – Elderly people are resource intensive. You need to very deliberately think about accessibility and mobility – and in my experience these are issues churches resent having to deal with. In my experience these are topic people towards ‘the right’ end of the political spectrum *very* much resent having to deal with. Many a second floor is just-under-the-line for square footage as to avoid the ADA requirement to have an elevator; it is a sadly common design consideration. There is significant silent discrimination built right into many of our structures – which says to the ~12% of our population who have a disability: “you are not welcome here”.

    • Yes, Adam. Our church did a renovation several years ago to put bathrooms on the main floor (previously in the basement only) as several elderly members had stopped attending because of issues related to going down stairs. We lost several other members because of it. They didn’t think the renovations were necessary and didn’t like that it changed the look of the 100 year old building so they simply stopped attending or went elsewhere.
      Ours is a rural congregation which means that a great many members are there because they and their families have always been there. It’s part of their culture rather than really part of their beliefs, so it doesn’t take much to upset the apple cart as the culture around them changes.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I find this very weird. I understand resenting perceived government intrusion forcing stuff on them, but I would have thought that “We are doing so that beloved Mrs. Finkleberry, who has been a member of this church for eighty years and taught you in Sunday School, can still worship with us” would be a pretty darned easy sell. Such is the culture of resentment, I suppose.

        For what it is worth, my church put in an elevator about ten years ago. It was astonishingly expensive, in part due to the architectural considerations of fitting it into an old building not designed for such things, and partly out of an esthetic imperative to make it visually fit it with the rest of the building (entirely successful: you wouldn’t know it was an added feature unless you looked closely). But mostly because elevators are really expensive. People winced at the cost, but not at the underlying purpose.

      • …did someone change the comment box form on iMonk? Odd that it’s above where you put your name/email in at now. Or maybe my firefox is glitching…anyways.

        Props to my parents’ church when they built their new building in the very late 90s, they put in several elevators to reach floors or upper balconies. May have been code (evil government!) regulations, but still. Still working today.

        A thought regarding #4, and I guess it hits #3 as well, but the two generations have very different ideas on how to spend money. From my older millennial perspective, if you are building a building, you know you are going to be paying it off for many years to come, so why not tack on an extra 2-3 years to install proper elevators and guardrails and whatnot for the community; that extra time and money really makes no difference.

        But for Boomers, and I’m guessing on down for anyone who fits into the Dave Ramsay camp (of which I’m a vocal opponent), there is the idea that ALL debt is inherently evil. Even if it’s debt from putting in that elevator. So building projects are lowest common denominator, how can we literally do the bare minimum, and then cut costs even farther with biweekly janitorial part time staff, single ply toilet paper, and reuse old pews and whatnot from the old building.

        My generation is both cheap but seems to put an emphasis on premium. And that’s entirely different thinking than a generation raised by the Greatest Depression.

        • And regarding #1, it’s the 80/20 principle. 20% may change, 80% are angry for someone suggesting they change, those damn uppity millennials…lol. At what age does humbleness go away? Sometimes seems to me it corresponds with becoming a parent.

        • And i once attended a church with a 2nd floor sanctuary that had no elevator. There was tremendous resistance to installing one.

          It wasn’t just older people who were shut out, but people much younger who needed wheelchairs, walkers, canes or scooters. The stairways to the 2nd floor were steep, with hairpin turns, and not easy to climb if, say, you were even temporarily dependent on crutches or a cane. They did, however, install a PA system in the basement (actually the ground floor) so that the long, ranty sermons could be heard down by the front door. Which is, i guess, quite a coup for all the “separate and not-so-equal”-advocating “leadership” there. I heard one of thrm tell somdone how relieved they were that they passed the inspection for handicapped-accesdible facilities without having to shell out for that elevator.

          Yeah, really. This place is on Capitol Hill in D.C. Of all the ironies…

        • Stuart, thst is an unusual observation regarding the perception of debt, if only because my parents, who were born in the mid-1920s, were long perceived as being people who avoided deby. An awful lot of them had suffered badly during the Depression.

          By contrast, it seems more common for people in my age bracket (I was born in the mid-50s) to use credit cards. A *lot* more common than you might think. Could it be the the subset of older people you’ve been around are credit card/debt-avoidant to an unusual degree? Do kerp in mind thst owning a house = mortgage psyments; one of the few ongoing debts my folks wojld tolerate. I don’t think either of them ever took out a car loan, because they had been raised to only pay for what they could afford, even if it took years of saving up to buy it.

          I think thst college debt has become so astronomical that everyone under a certain age is accustomed to feeling like it’s a millstone that they’ll never be free of. It scares me to think of how that will plsy itself out in their lives, their kids’, grandchildrens’, etc. My hunch is that far fewer people will have access to undergrad or grad school in coming years.

          • Meant to say “my parents’ generation.”

            Fwiw, one of my grandfathers had a thriving business as a contractor prior to the Crash of 1929. While not destitute afterwards, they were poor in all but name for a long time. That was common back then. The midfle class that seems so entrenched now is largely a post-WWII phenomenon, as is college as a norm.

    • Fascinating insights.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > It has left many of us feeling like we have “outgrown” the
    > church as it exists and functions in its current forms.

    Perhaps this is not even Age so much as you are now experiencing what many childless adults have experienced at church for most of their adulthood. Previously childless / non-family adults have been a demographic small enough to comfortably ignore.

    Overall the church’s disinterest in we childless adults – that is nothing new.

    • Speaking for the childless singles club, one of the first questions to come up on a date or in casual group conversation is the children question, do you want them, etc. And for many of us, after our childhoods in the church, not only would we never even consider raising our kids in the church, but we’re wondering whether we want to have kids even at all, and especially after so many in the church have escaped quiverfull/patriarchy influenced churches.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Heh – I decided “no” to that question a long time ago; I ‘resolved’ that issue in my early 20s. 🙂 A decision which really did not sit well with Evangelicalism, I remember it being very awkward when the topic came up an I had a straight forward answer of “no”.

        Now I am old enough that people ask in the past tense “Do you have kids?” It is a nice change.

        • Resolved that question or “tied up” that question? lol

          It’s something I don’t know my answer to yet either. It’s freeing to not have the burden of “YOU MUST HAVE KIDS” over my head. I love my nephew, soon to be nephews, and they’re awesome. But having kids myself? I don’t know. Depends.

          I must have a “spirit of abortion”, as was preached at me by a Boomer for many years…lol.

  4. “It is projected that by 2025 there will be more persons 85 years old (the boomers again) than 5 year olds.”

    So days Donald R. Koepke. But he got one little fact wrong. People who will be 85 in 2025 were born in 1940 and therefore are not boomers. The baby boom generation, statistically speaking, began in 1946 and ended in 1964. The 1940 crowd are pre-boomers, pre-war (not post-war) — well, in the U.S., at least, and Donald is obviously talking about the U.S. only because who else matters, right? With that perspective he is being completely boomerish, even if there’s a little egg on his face in the basic premise).

    Not meaning to be judgmental, just saying a little fact-checking is always good.

    • His point is not that these people are boomers. This particular fact is cited simply to make a point about relative numbers.

      • I knew that. Still, it behooves an author to get his or her facts right or the whole point can become suspect. Editors and fact-checkers are not in the same league as hospice chaplains, but they do have their place.

    • Agreed, beenthere. I’m a boomer, and kind of a late one at that. Most of the people who need accomodation in public places now are of the Korean War generation – one that has always been overlooked.

  5. The “Boomers” still have the $$$ that the organizations want and need so I don’t believe that they are ignored as much as they are taken for granted. I’d like to see what percentage of the offering plate is supplied by this demographic. If anything, they are probably the most dependable givers at this point, but if they perceive that they are just an appendage rather than a welcomed member then I believe that $$$ will slowly dry up.

    This is probably true for the smaller (under 500) congregations, the “mega-church” is another thing altogether.

    • Dana Ames says:

      A significant number of the elderly are poor, by anyone’s measurement, and have no $$$ to give.

      Dana

      • Not in the area I live in Dana

        • Dana Ames says:

          Yes, OC is different than the rest of the country in that respect. However, I bet there are elderly poor there, too – we simply don’t see them, and I count myself in that “we” too.

          Dana

          • Dana, thank you for those comments. I’m not quite “elderly” as yet, but am poor, though not visibly so. (To most people.)

            I think a lot more of us – meaning people of all ages – have ended up in that boat since 2008 than anyone would believe possible.

          • Yes, my wife and I are in that boat too, numo: the one that’s taking on my water than we can bail out.

    • I’d like to see what percentage of the offering plate is supplied by this demographic.

      Compare and contract with the average giving demographic of televangelists and similar ministries.

  6. A church minister says:

    Some of us do care very much even if it’s not the ministry we felt called to when we first became church leaders. Unfortunately we also are up against a completely fixed mindset in our denominations which value children, young people and families above all so will often only direct resources towards them.

    People leading elderly congregations are told they aren’t missional, disciple seeking etc but only interested in maintaining what is there so you constantly feel your ministry is undervalued and, even worse, that you being in place is an obstacle to church growth which will miraculously happen if you dump the elderly and focus on those you ‘want’ in church.

    In vain do you point out that God’s economy is different from our own or that the way we treat the vulnerable and those ‘past it’ speaks volumes missionally about the love of Jesus for all.

    Last September I met with one of my denominational superiors. He wanted to close down our church for 18 months and start it revamped for families/youth. Never mind that all the other churches in town are doing this already! Never mind that no one else is interested in the true people on the margins ie the elderly. Never mind that the town is due to undergo massive expansion in the coming decade and it’s a hotspot for retirees already! The fact I was there leading meant I was preventing the denomination from pursuing its plans and I wasn’t considered worth even consulting about this. He also said they wouldn’t fund me to lead this revamped church as I didn’t fit their idea of a person gifted and able to lead the church of the future (I’m 10 years younger than him!).

    He has no idea how close I was to walking away from ministry altogether when I had gone to meet with him. In fact I was hoping to hand everything over to him completely that evening. But when he looked me in the eye and told me that the ‘old people have had their day’ and when asked if it bothered him that he was prepared to consign a whole section of the church to the sidelines, he simply shrugged. It was the shrug that really got me.

    If anything was calculated to put some steel in my spine and resolve in my heart it was that. So I didn’t give him the keys of the church that evening. In fact I refuse to leave ministry. It’s sheer bloody mindedness that’s making me stay at the moment and the conviction that I can’t allow a completely rubbish theology be pursued in this reckless thoughtless manner. A theology that says people are expendable if they don’t fit the box we want them to fit is simply wrong.

    I usually post under my real name but, forgive me – I think it would be wise not to this time!

    • Wow.

      Thanks so much for this report from the front lines. Unfortunately it confirms my worst suspicions.

    • Thank you for your honesty and steadfastness. You sound like you have GOT to be in the LCMS. THIS is exactly our problem. May God bless your faithfulness.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I don’t think so. The underlying church governance sounds wrong. What would it mean for a district president to say he wanted to shut a church down for 18 months? It isn’t his church to shut down,

        • You’re probably right. But it certainly wouldn’t stop them from trying. Ever heard of University Lutheran Chapel? The irony, of course, is that this one WAS reaching young people, but I guess it wasn’t using cool enough methods.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Ever heard of University Lutheran Chapel?”

            I haven’t, but going from the name I suspect that it received financial support from somewhere in the hierarchy. This is key. Whoever pays the bills automatically has a lot of say in how things are done.

            My congregation is extremely liturgically stodgy. We are now running two hymnals behind the current one. I have seen occasional grumbling from the hierarchy, but we are financially independent, so there isn’t anything they can really do about it.

        • Judging from his speech patterns it sounds more UK than USA

    • Yes, really, what is so bad about “maintenance” ministry? But it gets a bad rap. I mean, if I’m bleeding, I’d rather the doctor pay attention to me instead of wandering off to expand his patient base.
      Plus, if you’re in a rural area, there simply aren’t people to disciple!

      • “Discipleship” in those terms is a serious misunderstanding of spiritual formation, which is a lifelong process and is tied to the different challenges presented in various seasons and circumstances of life. In my view evangelicals simply do not get this.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Ugh.

      Sadly, that conversation sounds like it went exactly as I would have expected. 🙁

    • I’m gasping! That level of callousness and indifference is stunning. Keep that steel in your spine, sir or ma’am — the Body of Christ needs you!

    • That really sucks…I’m sorry.

      People leading elderly congregations are told they aren’t missional, disciple seeking etc but only interested in maintaining what is there so you constantly feel your ministry is undervalued and, even worse, that you being in place is an obstacle to church growth which will miraculously happen if you dump the elderly and focus on those you ‘want’ in church.

      Here’s where a conflict is. Church growth is the wrong mindset; it is the opposite of the individual believer’s growth. As is maintaining churches into perpetuity as if each individual church is special and some unique temple/tabernacle. It’s not. God used it for his needs, it served his church faithfully. It can be shut down and sold. God is everywhere and elsewhere while still being there.

      It’s a shame.

      • There is no dishonor in shutting down an old empty church. There is a lot of honor is seeing it to the end of it’s life and fulfilling it’s congregation’s needs.

        We need more “old churches”. Let them be faithful.

        • Christiane says:

          I would give anything to be able to visit the old stone Church of my youth, but the parish grew and built a new much larger Church in a more fashionable part of the city, and the old Church remained for a while as ‘the Chapel’, but in the end they sold it to some denomination of the residents who lived near it.

          The new Church was nice, but it was not the same. Something about that old Church with its stonework and warm wood was welcoming with the stained glass windows in sharp contrast to the gray stone.

          Newer and bigger aren’t ‘better’ . . . they’re just ‘newer’ and ‘bigger’

          One more screed and I’ll stop: joined the YMCA and noticed some country music playing in the ladies’ locker room . . . turns out it was some kind of ‘praise music’ . . . oh my goodness, if THAT is what older folks are getting served up in evangelical Churches for music, no wonder they want the old hymn books back.

    • Stick with it. It’s a fight worth fighting.
      But I fear this is the kind of thing we’re going to keep getting as long as we keep modeling church after corporate entities designed to make money. I’m sorry, but it’s just not possible to adopt the corporate structure without eventually being infected by the mindset and character attributes that structure inevitably produces.
      I know organizational structure is necessary, but I think the essential DNA of the church has to be that of a loving, multi-generational family. Remove that essential ingredient, and I’m not too sure that what’s left can really be honestly defined as church.

    • A church minister says:

      Thanks everyone for your comments.
      Whenever I feel totally fed up I will come back and read them to give me a boost.
      They put fresh heart into me and that is exactly what we should be doing for each other – encouraging, supporting and blessing all of what God is doing in this world even when we don’t fully understand what we are called to do. Thank you.

    • Mourning Dove says:

      Ohmyword! That has already happened once in our tiny rural town and preparations are under way for it to happen a second time (taking over a church, shutting it down for several months to paint the walls black and hire a worship band, then reopen under a youth/family banner). Results thus far have been disastrous in the minds of mature Christians.

      I know the phrase ‘God Bless You’ is overused and almost void of meaning, but truly: God.Bless.You. for sticking with the gospel, for serving your congregation, for not being bullied by higher ups. You are doing the right thing.

    • M A Craig says:

      That is NOT “sheer bloody mindedness” at all, don’t you think that for a moment! You are listening to the heart of God and standing up for people who deserve better than these “leaders” are giving. Keep that steel in your spine and your focus on having a heart aligned with God’s!

      I am thankful that our church respects all members, young and old and in-between. The ability to stay true to valid doctrine, to keep the love of Christ active in our hearts, and to compromise on things (not Biblical doctrine) to be able to share Christ’s love, God’s Word, and most importantly the Gospel, is a trait desperately needed in today’s churches, it seems.

      Blessings, courage and strength to you!

  7. “Why don’t churches seem to care?”

    A while back, the church I attended and served at really ramped up the music program – only new songs from more “cutting edge” bands, louder volume, etc. Someone asked about how this might affect older people. I think the wife of my former pastor summed it up perfectly. She very flippantly stated, “They had their day.”

    • “They had their day.”

      Statements like this betray a fundamental lack of understanding, not only of the nature of the Body of Christ, but also of the world in which we now live. “The day” of older people is growing longer and longer. Are we really going to disregard them for 30, 40, or even 50 years of their lives?

      • Not only thst… it shows how unaware she is that she will be in the group of people who, per her have “had their day” before much time has passed.

        As someone or other once said, youth is wasted on the young.

  8. What does it mean to follow Jesus in the late autumn and winter of our lives?

    The most traditional expressions of Christianity have always had the answer to this question. A good number of their congregations are dominated by grey hairs, who seem quite comfortable with the spirituality they have known their whole life. It sustained them when they were young, it sustains them when they are old, and it is very capable of sustaining all persons at all ages in all times, with a track record to prove it.

    The boomers have dug their own ditch here because of their iconoclasm. They thew away all vestiges of tradition in the pursuit of what seemed more exciting now, so when the reach the point where they cannot keep up with the cutting edge they find it leaving them behind.

    They have had their day. That’s the problem. We need to stop giving people THEIR day, and craft our religion specifically and intentionally for bringing the generations together. The wholesale endorsement of niche marketing was the product of revivalism’s end-justifies-means mentality, and it has seriously gouged the soul of the west. You might say it’s made our whole damn country into one giant burned-over district. I am sick and tired of seeing people give up on Christianity because they see it as “not for me.” 9 out of 10 times this is because the manufactured subculture and commercial piety turns them off. Rarely is it because they have understood and rejected the Gospel.

    I am very proud to be part of a congregation that worships with every generation. I lead a music ministry in which every generation serves together. I’ve had half the youth group in the choir, serving along side many of our oldest. Our praise bands often include a 50+ year age range. I’ve been told to give the old ladies a rest and put some fresh young faces on the mic. I do not respond to that very politely. Is is both/and or else. We’re not here to market an image of young, sexy, and successful. That level of pretentiousness is an even greater turn off for millennials seeking authenticity. Our congregation is ok with being who we are, as a dysfunctional family that somehow still works together and is brought together by Jesus to receive grace around His table as beggars.

    You probably could have guest this one would get me ranting. 😛

    • Miguel, this is an outstanding statement of what I meant by “the nature of the Body of Christ” in my comment above.

    • Thank you, Miguel! “We’re not here to market an image of young, sexy, and successful.”–hard as it is to convince so many otherwise. Excellent thoughts! Rant away!

    • Miguel, as someone who turned the big 60 this year, I really appreciate your comments.

    • Brianthedad says:

      +1. Love your insights on these sorts of things Miguel.

  9. As the culture changes, our church structures change, too, like it or not. In previous generations, as people aged, their families took care of them and the younger generation took care of things like church and other civic organizations. This has changed. How many younger people join the Rotary Club, Lions Club, etc.? Not many. Nor do they join churches. In our area, a 100 year old hospital auxiliary closed up due to lack of new members. At our church, the ladies society has few members and the men’s group hasn’t functioned for 30+ years. But look how society has changed! Most of these groups were formed when society consisted of one wage earner families and women did not normally work outside the home.
    I also see two sides to this. I see churches trying to attract new members but Boomers reluctant to give up their hold on the processes that have been in place for years. I am not talking here about church music or liturgy, although that comes into play (which, oddly enough, from what I’ve encountered, it’s the Boomers who want the rock band in church, not the Gen Xers or Millennials), but the structure of who takes care of what at church and how we relate to each other. I can guarantee that my 20 something daughter would turn up her nose at the idea of joining a “ladies group” or of there even being a need for a “ladies group” and I’m sure she isn’t alone. People are busier than ever before. Overtime is common in most jobs as are irregular work schedules. Regular church attendance is a couple of times a month for most, not every week. It’s no longer unusual for people to wander into church, coffee cup in hand, 15 to 20 minutes after the service begins. Our parochial schools plan sporting events for the same time as church services and a church we attended when we lived near a large city with a pro sports team had to plan church events around the team’s schedule or it was guaranteed that no one would show up.

    I’m rambling here, but I think there is so much to consider with this post. It’s true there isn’t much push in churches on how to deal with the older set, but I think some of that comes from Boomers inability to deal with their own aging. They want the next generation to follow them, but only on their terms. Where are our church leaders in this? Many of them are Boomers, too, with the same mindset, while the younger ones lack the maturity to see the big picture (imagine that!).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      (which, oddly enough, from what I’ve encountered, it’s the Boomers who want the rock band in church, not the Gen Xers or Millennials)

      Because they’re trying to pretend it’s still The Sixties and they’re still Young. GROOVY, MAN!

      Like a seventy-something Michael Jackson in his footie jammies, screaming into a mirror “I’M YOUNG! I’M YOUNG! I’M YOUNG! REALLY! I AM!!!!!”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > younger generation took care of things like church and other civic organizations.
      > This has changed. How many younger people join the Rotary Club, Lions Club, etc.? Not many.

      The *overall* decline in affiliation is well documented. But as a lonely ray of light in all this grim I will say I believe we have passed the deepest part of trough; the antisocial spirit is receding. I could be wrong, and it will take awhile to see it in the data – but it sure feels that way. A few years out from the great recession [which kicked the M’s in the teeth] I am witnessing a real uptick in engagement, and just more community. Could be a local phenomenon, but I am hopeful.

      > Nor do they join churches

      So many attitudes so pervasive [and at least passively endorsed] in the church… I much less hopeful about her.

      • How many younger people join the Rotary Club, Lions Club, etc.? Not many.

        Worth pointing out is that these particular groups are declining, but us young people are joining groups just as much/often. The concern seems to be when parents say “why didn’t you join the group popular in my day?”, when there are new groups for us to join.

        Not a concern, really, then.

        And yeah, us M’s got kicked in the teeth, hard. I spent 3 years out of college underemployed or unemployed, earning about $800 a month. It turned around slightly two and a half years ago for me, but now I’m 30, still under lots of school debt, and living at home. Looking for a pair of bootstraps I can pull.

        The ones who succeeded decided to cohabitate, got huge handouts from parents, or had the right guides and sponsors to ride them into THE exact degree/career path they needed along with every available grant or scholarship opportunity.

        But that didn’t stop me from participating and being involved in what was important, if cheap or free.

        • Ditto for Xers. Same exact thing.

          The silver lining is that maybe that experience will keep you from exhibiting the less palatable aspects your Boomer parents.

        • It’s not community; it’s the model. This is one reason the unions are dying – the “lodge” model is hopelessly out of touch. I think the same often holds for churches’ older folks want the “lodge” model, younger folks understand the distributed model better.

    • turnsalso says:

      People are busier than ever before. Overtime is common in most jobs as are irregular work schedules. Regular church attendance is a couple of times a month for most, not every week.
      Absolutely. You expect people to get up early and sit for one to two hours every Sunday when it and Saturday are the only days left to take care of everything at home that’s been neglected from working two jobs five days a week?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Agree. There is something to this – people working more hours.

      • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

        There are an incredible number of people who straight up don’t get Saturday or Sunday off. I went for years on the night shift – getting off from work at 8:00 am. Guess what I was doing at 10:30 when church got underway? Sleeping! Some weeks, my relief would get to work early, and I would race down the street for the 8:00 AM Mass at the Catholic Church. But, it often seems that only the Catholic Church really cares about people who don’t work traditional hours.

    • “…it’s the Boomers who want the rock band in church, not the Gen Xers or Millennials”

      Yes. This.

      • And yet even here at iMonk we have people loudly disagree with RHE and statistics and others who say that.

        They hear what they want to hear. They don’t listen to the person standing in front of them saying “no, I don’t think that at all”. It’s saddening and more than a little frustrating.

      • …and yet, cutting edge trendy rock band driven churches (try Hillsong NYC or Elevation) are jam packed with young people who are convinced they are encountering God in the slick productions.

        The line doesn’t run so much between generations. Rather, as Steve Colbert put it, “This is a nation divided between those who think with their brains, and those who know with their hearts.” Prophetic words, there.

    • Brianthedad says:

      Our lcms church has an early, contemporary service and a later more traditional service. Attendance at early has dwindled, ours is really the only family with kids that still attends, the contemporary service started years ago when we had a smaller building, as a way to accomodate growth. Then somehow, it became a way to attract younger families, and the liturgy disappeared, screens showed up, breathy contemporary music, videos and other trendy things appeared. Now, with 30 people in that service, they wring hands and wonder what new fresh idea will bring in the younger people. Ironically enough, the traditional service is populated with a cross section of people, of all ages, with about 80-100 in that service, and growing. The first service is people who come for the conveneince of the time, ourselves included. They’d be there regardless of the service style. I’ve suggested a non-musical liturgy with communion and no sermon, since finding musicians is a problem. No takers. Gotta be trendy.

      • Brianthedad, thank you! My son in another city goes to the contemporary service because the time works for him. He says it’s just ok, but the early service is too early & and the late too late for him, so he goes but would rather have a regular liturgy type service.
        The desire for Contemporary services comes up in our church often (almost always the Boomer crowd) but the lack of musicians is key. Where they gonna come from? We have only a part time organist and are in a rural area with no access to a trove of musicians unless they come from elsewhere and you pay them (plus mileage), which nobody wants to do. Sadly, with the internet and Christian rock stations, people see and hear these big megachurches in places like NYC and wonder why they are having all the fun with no concept of the programming, the planning, the musicians, the money that goes into something like that. Smaller churches can’t compete, but when did this all get to be a competition anyway?

  10. This has long been a concern of mine, as ‘the youth’ slowly hijacked church services, implemented ‘youth programs’ and generally side-lined anyone over 40 or 50. The segregation that took place has been a slow church -self-annihilation direction…as we see being played out with the Dones and the Nones. I agree with whoever stated it that BBs made their own bed on this one. But that doesn’t mean we yawn and ignore the issue, either.
    I agree with most of what’s been said here, and great perspective and insight into the various ways this has come about.
    But I also have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps some of this isn’t because the BBs (and others) grew up under the teaching that we’re ‘all gonna be raptured’ so everything was for the expediency and urgency of the moment–let’s get everyone saved NOW! I’m not sure anyone had the foresight to say……hmmmm, we could be around a lot longer than we (re: Hal Lindsay and his ilk) think, and what should that look like?
    Just a thought….

    • Could be, Charlie, but the early church kind of thought the same thing, that the end was coming at any moment. I guess though, with us, we had a lot of history to tell us that maybe the long view of things was prudent.

  11. Here is an interesting podcast about late fifties and sixty-something people in the Church by Frederica Mathewes-Greene. The article she references is also interesting.

    Seventy-something and eighty-something people in the churches are survivors. I wish I knew more of them.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Interesting article. I am not sure I totally buy into thrust of it, but youth vs. the world-weary is certainly truthful.

      Question: Are [or were] the younger parishioners **really** clamoring for contemporary services, etc…? Or was that more picked up from marketing, and drawing energy from an identity crisis in tail-end BBs? Probably off-topic for today’s post. But I wonder more and more if the *demand* side of the equation was artificially manufactured.

      It is sad to think this generation schism may be powered by a perception that was never true in the first place.

      Link comment – She misses the point I think in the part about books: From link: “””Then go searching for books to help you understand and adapt ministry to people in their 50’s and 60’s and you’ll be able to count them on one hand”””

      I say: Of course. As an X I wouldn’t think to go read a book about understanding BBs; they raised me, they were/are my parents, my teachers, my bus driver, my boss…. I know them intimately.

      The reverse intimacy may not be taken for granted. A great deal of identity is acquired during the school, especially the university, years – which does not involve the former generation so much. So a highly educated generation – and the rate of educational attainment of the Xs and Ms is far out ahead of the BBs – has an incubator to generate an identity which outsiders may then need to acquire an understanding of. And there is the issue of coming-of-age with different technology and very different economic tides. The modern university exerts an enormous cultural gravity; it very much facilitates the birds-of-a-feather flocking we see in mobility demographics.

      Just as an example – regardless of the locality of origin of those who attend – living on or near the campus of a large university creates a significant shadow effect on future mobility habits and thus future location choices. It is pretty clear in transportation usage data. If the gravity of the campus can be seen lingering in something as ‘banal’ as mobility preferences – numerous years later – one has to believe it tugs on all facets of life-style.

      Older generations may not get a front row seat to experience/witness what happens in this cultural incubation period. Thus they turn to books. Sadly, I suspect the majority of those books are grossly overly-simplified, and often very negative, crap. It is much better to get an understanding of people by spending time with them.

      • youth vs. the world-weary

        venn diagram of huge overlap between the two…aka, the nones and dones probably

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Older folks as survivors. . .

      Yes, yes, yes.

      These folks know what it means to be sick and weak, to lose a wife or husband, to keep on living and to persevere in faith and hope and love despite loss and age-caused limitations. Unlike the younger folks, they have memories which give them a broader, wiser and long-term perspective. In them is a history with Christ that gives them a “peace that passes understanding” that their children and grandchildren too often know only from the outside. Theirs are the words of Paul, “I have fought the good fight. . . ” (How many hip, seeker churches have folks that can say that? Some, I suppose, but how many?)

      I have more to learn from a recent widow grieving the loss of her husband of 60 years than a year’s worth of sermons from the pastor of the local, youth-oriented, entertainment-offering, rock music playing church, complete with fog machines and light shows.

      I agree, Burro. “I wish I knew more of them.” I am profoundly grateful for the many I do know.

  12. Well, since everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon here, I’ll attempt a post that’s a bit counter to iMonk thinking and take any stones you throw at me.

    1) Aren’t we aging/elderly people supposed to be the mature ones in our congregations, the ones who’ve had our day and can back off a bit and show grace to the younger generation? As we criticize the younger generation for their “me first” attitude, aren’t we taking on a “me first” attitude?

    2) We aging/elderly folks will reach death sooner than the younger generation. Which house is likely to last longer, one filled with 85 year olds or one filled with 25 year olds? If I want to help God build His kingdom, I better try to help Him reach the 25 year olds. (And yes, that’s loaded with a bunch of issues, but I hope the basic point is made.)

    3) “I for one do not see any corresponding growth in emphasis on ministering to older adults.” If we are the spiritually mature and the ones who’ve walked with Christ the longest, WE should be ministering to OTHERS. Again, this seems to take on the feel of “what’s in it for me”, the very thing we’re criticizing in the younger generation.

    4) “…it seems the church has little vision to reach them or to help them understand what it means to have a ‘Jesus-shaped spirituality’ in one’s later years.” Did Peter or Paul or James or any of the apostles or early disciples need to be told what “Jesus-shaped spirituality” looked like? No. They knew because they lived it. If I’ve walked with him for 27+ years now, I know what Jesus-shaped spirituality looks like. We aging/elderly Christians should certainly have a better idea than a 25 year old recent Christian. We should be the ones sharing what Jesus-shaped spirituality looks like, not seeking to be told about it.

    Those are just some thoughts to stir the pot.

    • I’ll respond more fully later Rick, but I don’t think you’re quite getting my point. I agree with you that there are roles that older folks should serve, but I’m arguing that the church (BTW not just those who are younger) is failing to understand a fundamental reality of discipleship and spiritual formation — that it takes different forms in different seasons of our lives. The church is missing a great opportunity to help millions of people, who at any other point in history might not have lived past their 50s or 60s, to discover Jesus’ path for them later in life.

      • Oh, I get your point completely, CM, but I think any points being made are lost amidst the “rant” mindset here (against the younger generation). For every statement that is positive and healthy regarding “a fundamental reality of discipleship and spiritual formation”, there are about ten “rants” against the perceived hijacking of the church by the younger generation.

        • Again, if there is blame to be placed and rants to be made, I wouldn’t direct them toward the “younger generations,” but rather toward church leaders and teachers who have abandoned good ecclesiology and pastoral practice in favor of corporate and consumer models of church growth and discipleship. This is a church, denominational, and parachurch problem, not a generational one. And it is a theological failure at its core.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > Again, if there is blame to be placed and rants to be made, I wouldn’t direct them
            > toward the “younger generations,” but rather toward church leaders and teachers

            +1

            > And it is a theological failure at its core.

            I don’t know. It seems that Logistics [a valid concern – to a point] has trumped values [concern for people]. Maybe that is a theological failure.

            Do we perhaps have multiple definitions of “ministry”? It kind of circles back around to the question – I at least – can never answer to my satisfaction: What is the role of the church? I know that as a childless middle-aged adult male I feel rather periphery to it, it is just something that is sort of there. I am unsure what it is supposed to be. That used to bother me more than it does now – but maybe that is OK? I just went elsewhere to find ‘meaningful’ endeavor – maybe that is OK. Perhaps the notion that the church should be a central axis of my life is just a shadow of Evangelicalism.

            What ministry to the elderly? What ministry to the non-family? What ministry to the single mother, the mentally ill, …. The church may ‘succeed or ‘fail’ more or less with different categories. But I struggle to see a vision of what she is meant to do or be, that is unique to her. She is a community…. sorta kinda. She is a repository of knowledge…. maybe. She is a source of wisdom… and sometimes really not so much.

          • The Boomers self-imploded. They did in fact make this mess, both in the church and nationally in government and economy and so much else. Millennials aren’t responsible for the great heresies of the 20th century, or the moral majority, or that 2008 recession, or the war in iraq, or whatever.

            People have said here that they made their own bed. Sure, I agree. But it shouldn’t end there. Millennials who call themselves believers should still lay down their lives and care for and love the Boomers and older generations. It’s Christ-like.

            The frustration comes when daily Boomers ignore what they’ve done, refuse to change, and accuse us Millennials of all the problems. It’s aggravating. It’s yelling at those bringing you your food, helping you make your bed, change your clothes. It’s blaming your caretakers for you growing old and being in care.

            Somedays, it feels like there isn’t a whip large enough to drive the Boomers from the Temple.

            sigh

            • As I said to Rick, you’re reading this wrong. I’m not blaming “younger generations.” I’m saying that the church is dropping a ball here and missing an opportunity.

          • Yeah, CM, it is. I agree.

          • “… It’s yelling at those bringing you your food, helping you make your bed, change your clothes. It’s blaming your caretakers for you growing old and being in care.”

            The youth-embracing church doesn’t bother (or flat-out doesn’t know how) to teach anyone anymore how to grow old (with all of its physical/mental trials & tribulations) gracefully in Christ, so all those members who thought they’d be young forever get mad when they realize life (as well as church) has betrayed them.

    • Another thought…

      Maybe it’s not so much the younger generation pushing the aging/elderly aside, maybe it’s the aging/elderly DOING IT TO THEMSELVES. The mindset of many aging/elderly is “I’ve done my time, my serving, my ministry…now I get to coast.” Maybe we’re being ignored because we WANT to be ignored (in a general sense, not individually). Maybe we’re being ignored because we haven’t shown we offer any VALUE to anyone in ten years.

      • David Cornwell says:

        “The mindset of many aging/elderly is “I’ve done my time, my serving, my ministry…now I get to coast.””

        Sometimes it isn’t that one “gets” to coast. It’s that there are not always choices about coasting. And coasting isn’t really a good term for it. As one’s body ages, normally there is a natural slowing down. And I”ve found it’s best to go with that flow as much as possible. Older people who attempt to do the work or carry the load that younger ones do, are asking for trouble. The body hurts more. most of the time there are one or more physical ailments going along with aging.

        However many older people are a well of wisdom, just waiting to be consulted. This is one of the positive ways of helping them to be part of the Body of Christ.

        It’s easy for older people to promise too much rather than too little.

        • Right! The elderly have just as much a role to play in the body of Christ. Only, their role is different. Less strength, more perspective. This is why the different generations need each other. Churches need to do a better job of finding ways to tap the priceless resources God has gifted them with in their elderly members. Doing so is a crucial key to vitality, imo.

        • Further, ambitions would-be CEO pastors, full of piss and vinegar, who disparage the value of the elderly in their strategies, provoke within me the urge to punch them in the face. Maybe it’s because I’m Lutheran, but elders are to be respected, and those who dogmatically insist otherwise are the height of arrogance. They deserve to have old men beat them with their canes. Sure, not all our older members are that wise. They are still valuable to the community, and the burden of responsibility is on us to ascertain their value before we cast them aside. We might be surprised what we find if we only take a few moments to get to know them. Most of my best friends in ministry have been two to three times my age. They have been the ones who keep me going through hard times. They are also the ones with whom I tend to have the most severe disagreements. And yet, they are the ones most likely to love me through it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > As we criticize the younger generation for their “me first”
      > attitude, aren’t we taking on a “me first” attitude?

      Yes.

      I hope nothing I said came across as youth bashing; I certainly did not mean that. My least favorite generation is my own [X] – so much cynicism and apathy – and there are so many Ms that I admire.

      • From Wikipedia:

        In 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Gen X volunteer rates in the U.S. at “29.4% per year”, the highest compared with other generations. The rankings were based on a three-year moving average between 2009 and 2011.

        Generation X is not apathetic generally. They are apathetic towards Evangelicalism, I think. They are still perfectly willing to devote themselves to causes they believe in. They’re just as human and humane as other generations.

    • Rick, good questions.

      1. Being the mature ones involves so much more than conceding preference. It also involves teaching younger generations to do the same, and when is the appropriate time. More importantly, doing the unpopular work of teaching them what it means to be a multi-generational family as a church, where mutual submission regardless of age challenges all to greater depths of maturity and increases the diversity of expression and inclusivity in the church cultus. It’s not “me first” vs. “them first.” It’s “us together, no matter how difficult it is to be so eclectic.” Being eclectic is hard work, but such is the family that Christ gathers.

      2. A house filed with 25 year olds could literally close tomorrow. Anything built on a shameless appeal to popular youth culture will attain a very fickle degree of loyalty. Older generations tend to be much more loyal because they they’ve survived the faddish and have latched onto what endures. Keep in mind, all young churches that survive eventually become old churches, or they maintain a revolving door that continually graduates their members. Neither option is healthy or sustainable in the long run. You don’t reach 85 year olds or 25 year olds. That is more than just a false dichotomy: Either without the other is failure, because the old and the young truly need each other in more ways than they tend to realize, especially in our age of commercial niche marketing. The church ought to be beholden to the entire community of faith, not popular business strategies.

      3. Not all old people are mature disciples, some are recent converts. ALL Christians are called to minister to and serve others. We don’t communicate this message by catering to a desired target audience. The people we want to “reach” are the same people that we ought to lead down the path of Christ-like service to others. We shouldn’t bait and switch them by presenting them a “have it your way” religion and then expecting them to make the switch to the absolute selflessness we demand of our veterans. Our religion is what it is: Based on and modeled after Christ and his teaching, not the cultural fads of those we wished would become adherents. We don’t sell potential disciples the religion we think will appeal to them. We sell them Christ, and his teaching, regardless of whether it appeals to their generation or demographic.

      4. “If I’ve walked with him for 27+ years now, I know what Jesus-shaped spirituality looks like.” I’m much younger than you and I’ve walked with Christ longer than that. It’s not about age. What we need is a pattern that can guide the young and old, AND recent converts and seasoned veterans of all ages. Not to mention, we are never in a more dangerous place than when we think we really “get” Jesus-shaped spirituality. Those who have that completely figured out have ceased to follow Him completely. If I’ve learned anything in my time following Jesus, it’s that we remain continually HIS students in the school of spirituality. Being the gracious teacher that He is, he never stops teaching us. If we cannot model this for those we disciple, we have nothing more than our man-made traditions to offer them.

      Peter, Paul, and James didn’t need to be told because they walked with Christ with the kind of personal, face-to-face discipleship that you and I do not have. This is why the church is built on the foundation of Christ and his apostles (Eph. 2.20). Anything we could possibly know about Jesus-shaped spirituality was taught to them first, and we learn it through what they teach us.

      If we want to define Jesus-shaped spirituality, we ought not first look to ourselves, but to Christ and those he brought first into his inner circle of spirituality training. Ask yourself: How did Jesus practice spirituality? How did His disciples? How did their disciples? I am convinced that the answers to those questions are an important beginning to the journey. And the answer to those two questions lies in these two words: Synaxis, and Anaphora.

      • Great response, Miguel.

        1. Totally agree. I’ve seen our church go from “let’s give the youngsters their own service” (which drifted toward a divisive nature) to a country club mentality (primarily Caucasian 40+ year olds after many of the young families left) to a multicultural, mutligenerational congregation where we have refugee kids from Africa singing worship with 50-year-old white folks. It’s been a marvel to watch our church morph so many times in so many ways over the 20+ years I’ve been there. I could relate to your earlier post up above.

        2. Yes, that’s true. I guess my point was the need to involve youngsters in the leadership of a church to make it more viable as the long-time members age and die. For instance, my church’s current church board consists 100% of Caucasians 45+ years. We should not let the fear of “if we involve the younger generation in the development and leadership of our church, they’re going to hijack it from us” keep us from bringing young people into leadership roles.

        3. Yes, I agree that there are people of all ages who come to begin their walk with Christ and need to learn what that means. I just know what I see and hear in my church: some people who should know better complaining about stuff they should just let go. My closest analogy might be to Phariseeism, where the ones who’ve known God the longest (and thus should know Him BEST) are the ones who get offended most often. I think as we age, this is a danger.

        4. Yes, we can all learn from each other, regardless of age. I keep telling a couple of the younger guys who are more recent Christians, “I LOVE when you participate. I have a lot to learn from you about faith.”

        4.

  13. I think we older people are supposed to be the ones to gracefully pass the torch to the younger generation, but I think we haven’t done that very well. I see a lot of Boomer types who have a spiritual maturity that is stuck in a Sunday School mentality: simple, happy, and surface skimming. What they know about Jesus is what they learned in Sunday School Bible stories and they don’t want to delve any deeper than that. (That’s a paraphrase of what a retired life- long member of my church said to me).
    “I know what Jesus-shaped spirituality looks like. We aging/elderly Christians should certainly have a better idea than a 25 year old recent Christian.” We should know, but from what I see, many don’t. I understand your point, though, and I think it’s valid. We don’t emphasize ministering to older adults because they aren’t the future. They will be gone in the next 20 years or so. But in reality, the boomer generation has a much longer lifespan than previous generations. In years past, there was no need to consider ministering to the aging. They were already gone.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > In years past, there was no need to consider ministering to the aging

      This! We are in new waters; interesting times! 🙂

    • Amen!

    • Previous generations also did not have to deal with as much age segregation and niche marketing. The concept of the “teenager” was not yet fully formed and people were much more likely to accept a “one size fits all generations” approach to religion.

  14. From watching the (very successful) seniors ministry at my church, I’ve noticed it has 2 very important roles: 1) to encourage the seniors to excercise their spiritual gifts in ministering to the younger generations, and 2) to disciple and encourage those seniors who have come to the Lord very late in life, often with problems and issues unique to older folks. Just like other age groups, the seniors can be a very heterogeneous group. Spiritual maturity is not congruent with physical maturity.

    • David Cornwell says:

      What does it mean to “disciple” a person? Give me an example of an old person so “discipled.”

      • Sorry if I’m using lingo particular to my denomination (Assembly of God). What I mean by that is the process of mentoring a new believer in the Christian faith.

        • Thank you for the clarification. It seems to me that the best way for us to be is to be mentors, one to another, those who are deeper in mentoring those who are new, regardless of age. The happiest and most successful congregations that I have found are multi-generational in worship, where that babies and the oldsters are in worship together for the long haul. It may be messy, but it is beautiful as they seek to serve with gladness.

  15. On the political/economic side, there are numerous sites out there putting together resources to address these problems. Any one of these links has good info. https://www.reddit.com/r/lostgeneration/

  16. According to the above I’m old old but that’s not the name of my generation. My generation doesn’t seem to have a name and I never know which generation someone I’m talking with belongs to. As far as I can tell most churches that seem to be failing are ministering to old people. As far as I can tell, most of those old people believe you go to heaven when you die if you have been a nice person and went to church more or less often or at least were baptized. As far as I can tell most old people are not interested in learning anything new or growing spiritually. Given the opportunity to attend a Bible study with most old people, or any “senior citizen” function, I could only hope there was an alternate choice of licking a frog. Given my druthers I would rather meet with high school kids than any other age group.

    If the church were to minister to this geezer, this is what I need and I’m even considering running it as a notice in the local classifieds: Would like to speak with anyone interested in a short spoken liturgical open Christian service without music or sermon and at a convenient time. Would also like to speak with anyone interested in the practice of contemplative prayer.

    Not holding my breath on that one, but if anyone responded I would expect them to be younger than me, and would be astounded if anyone my age or older was interested. Would also be astounded if any so called pastors responded. Here’s a need I share with some others my age. I can’t see to drive after dark so unless a meeting is within a mile or so I need it during daylight hours. My favorite time for meeting is afternoons, and that is when most people are either in school or working. Also like large print reading material. Those are age related issues that have nothing to do with a particular life experience or world view.

    • Would like to speak with anyone interested in a short spoken liturgical open Christian service without music or sermon and at a convenient time.

      Tis a beautiful thing when you can find it. Best bet is always the nearest Anglican church.
      People older than you are interested, they’re called Episcopalian priests. I believe they are required to pray the daily office anyways, I imagine many of them would be surprised and grateful to find someone interested in joining them. I remember walking into an Anglican cathedral for an advertised Morning Prayer service and seeing the vicar visibly surprised that anyone actually came by, much less brought friends.

      • Thanks, Miguel. That’s likely my best shot unless someone else wanted to begin anew. I would have to drive 25 miles to find an Anglican church, which pretty much closes that door. Checking online, I would have to drive from Michigan to suburban Chicago or W’s neck of the Pennsylvania woods to find an open Lutheran said service. Catholics won’t share their food with me. This may go in the pipe dream drawer but you never know. Come springtime and longer daylight hours, there’s a nearby weekly evening meeting of Friends I’m going to give a shot. In the meantime I’m hanging out with the Dones since the first of the year.

  17. It seems those who decry entitlements in government expect entitlements in the church.