While we have a president in his 70s and three projected contenders in the 2020 well into their 70s, unless you’re running for president, getting old in America isn’t easy. Ageism in the work place, being shoved aside as “irrelevant” when it comes to opinions and experience, etc., begins to wear on folks.
But when it is in the American church, it’s another level of heartache and, quite frankly, disgust.
I remember a few years back having a friend call who was a pastor in his late 50s. I could hear the fear in his voice because he was looking at trying to pastor another church and he was not being considered because of his age.
Then, there is this very real story of out of Minnesota where there is a fight in the media over older members of a Methodist congregation who are being moved aside for the church to be closed and then “rebranded” and reopened in a few months.
This follow up piece from Christianity Today gets into the larger issue of aging in the American Church.
It’s a careful balance to be sure, but if we could set aside the discussion on “butts and budgets” for a moment and the “branding” of the younger American Church, could we have a real talk?
There are a couple of places I would like to celebrate because they truly work to be intergenerational in their approach.
One is my home church, Church of the Apostles, in Alabama. It’s a 20 year old church that has done an amazing job having all ages worship together and work together. I have a men’s Bible study I attend weekly where I was the youngest member by far (at age 53 at the time)… then some 40-something punk shows up and wrecks my standing… but that’s another story.
The second of two services on Sunday morning is geared for families since that is when the children’s ministries are offered. The children’s ministry is robust in its teaching of the Bible and the church. Then, all children are brought back in to celebrate the Eucharist with their families. It is noisy, hectic… and immensely beautiful.
The second church I want to give a shout out to is First Assembly of God in Rolla, MO. My parents needed to move to Rolla for health reasons and the first Sunday we took them to this church it was home to them. It was a very hard move for my parents. They had lived 50 plus years in the same town and now they were in a completely new place.
That first Sunday we attended the second service which was billed as being more “traditional” (for Assemblies of God, at least). The songs were familiar. The preaching was powerful. My dad sat in the pew (he is unable to stand for long) and lifted his hands in worship. It was amazing.
They immediately folded in my parents into their life as a church. Though my parents can’t always get to the worship service, someone from that church visits them about every week. My mom is currently in the hospital and I know someone from the church has visited her almost daily.
This isn’t a “small” church. They have two very full services. They are intergenerational as well. They have an afterschool program reaching the community, as well as a robust college ministry for the nearby college campus.
They take care of the “parish” where they are placed, so to speak. And they do it well.
I am also thankful for these two examples because they are from two very different church traditions. It’s not one “denomination” that has this “right.”
Let’s not leave ANYONE behind… including those who are aging.