Thinking Out Loud

July 28, 2014

“and now it’s time to dismiss the seniors for their service…”

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.*

Three years ago, I wrote about supporting the youth in your church in their various endeavors. Days later, I wrote what you’re now reading; 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.

For Logan, 30 was the cutoff year. A crystal system like this was proposed for church worship leaders, but it interfered with guitar chording

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.

*For any of my local readers; this was written quite some time ago. The young man who spoke at our church on Sunday was amazing; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the sermon.  Sometimes the timing of an article is awkward!!


  1. Our church has added an extra service to cater to the youth and hipster wannabes. They had the words to a song showing on a screen but during the guitar solo they felt it necessary to project the words “guitar solo”.

    Comment by Janis — July 28, 2014 @ 9:17 am

  2. I totally agree, Paul. I remember when the big thing for churches was to focus on a “target age group” and i wondered what was going to happen to the “untargeted” people. I totally agree with your comment, ” The message of the gospel is a call to each and everyone.”

    Comment by dianelindstrom — July 28, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

  3. Not quite the same topic, but this evoked a memory from way back when I was a new Christian.

    I was part of a team of young people who formed a Youth Crusade which held a monthly Saturday night meeting. We kept going for a number of years and it was the closest thing ever seen to a revival in our city. We had a ‘noted’ guest speaker each month, including such as Dr Oswald Smith, Dr Ralph Mitchell, Neil Macauley, Paul White, to name a few. Everything was organised by young people from 17 – 25, but we had a panel of older Christian advisers who often gave us very wise advice and kept us on the right path.

    We had a mandatory rule that once a person reached the age of 30 they could no longer be on the committee. As younger ones took on the responsibilities, they gradually edged out the older panel of advisors. Soon there were compromises and the whole thing deteriorated quickly and soon failed.

    Older Christians have a vital part to play in active service as well as being advisors and mentors.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — July 31, 2014 @ 12:21 am

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