In today’s worship-team driven, seeker sensitive, multi-site, mega-churches, participation is increasingly a young man’s game. Relevance is achieved through having relevant communicators, so those of us who’ve been around a bit longer are often forced to listen to sermons being taught by speakers who seem to be barely out of high school; speakers whose primary qualification seems to be that they are standing at the front of the room.
Two days ago, I wrote about supporting the youth in your church in their various endeavors. Today I want to write about supporting the middle aged in your church; the people who have suddenly become excluded from any ministry that is high profile simply because one week they forgot to touch up the single gray hair that has emerged just above the temple on their right side.
In many of today’s modern churches, those in their mid-forties are senior citizens, at least in terms of public ministry. Which is a real shame on so many levels; but mostly because, given the chance, many of these people have something to say. I really applaud some of the next generation people who are stepping up and demonstrating real spiritual maturity when thrust into a teaching or worship-leading role. But for each one of those, there are just as many who, while they can wear the clothes, assemble the accompanying slides, and open with the right stories; they simply don’t have the necessary content to justify the 30-35 minutes they are usually given.
So what can your church do to keep middle aged people active? In the item I wrote two days ago about empowering your youth in ministry, it was a simple matter of looking at a problem and throwing some money at it. In other words; the greatest need of teenagers for mission projects — either global or domestic — is for financial underwriting. That’s not the solution needed to affirm your middle-aged leaders.
You need to be intentionally multi-generational.
Robert Webber had it half right when he wrote of “blended worship.” But beyond the what of a given church service, the blendedness (a word I just made up) must also involve who is at the front of the room as well as who is at the back of the room giving direction. In fact, I would argue that you can’t achieve Webber’s blended ideal unless you have people representing different constituencies in the church providing input to the worship team.
Today’s church is so totally youth cultured, that it’s not hard to imagine the following:
“As we sing the next verse, we’ll invite everyone over 55 to come to the front; we have a special story for you; and then we’ll have a word of prayer and dismiss you to your own service in the church basement, where we have milk and cookies just for you.”
High fiber cookies, presumably.
No, that would be wrong. The capital-C Church of Jesus Christ is an equalizer. Rich and poor. Male and female. Labor class and management class. AND: Old and young. The target demographic should be defined as “anyone with a pulse.” The message of the gospel is a call to each and everyone.
Because the pastors and leaders who operate under a youth culture paradigm are going to find themselves — in just a year or two — suddenly out of a job. In fact the crystal on the inside palm of their hands is getting ready to turn red right now.
= = =
There’s more on this in a Spring, 2009 piece I wrote called The Growing Easter Void.
|1600th post coming on Saturday
SATURDAY will mark 1,600 published posts here at Thinking Out Loud. If it were number 1611, then perhaps the theme would suggest itself, but for number 1,600, I keep thinking we should do something special, especially since we didn’t do anything for number 1,500 or number 1,273 for that matter. Your suggestions, complaints, encouragement, criticisms are all appreciated. Or we might just pretend it’s just another day…
For my Canadian readers, as you know I fought bravely in the early days of this blog to promote the British spelling of certain words. But with a dominantly U.S. readership, I was forced to surrender to my American-based spell checker. But this particular piece shattered my previous record, so here are the conversions you need to translate this article to Canadian:
endeavor = endeavour
gray hair = grey hair
high fiber = high fibre
labor class = labour class
Unfortunately, I can’t help you with blendedness; it doesn’t exist on either side of the 49th parallel.