One of the elements I like about this is the blatant ‘we will cater to whatever whim you have’ when it comes to programming & worship in the church. Now, providing some services for people is fine, but often times they are provided under the ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ motivation versus an actual mission of the church. When church is, essentially, a place of transactional goods and services then it is an option for me to choose from (like any other business). When church is a community and place of transformation then it is harder to call it an option versus an integral part of ones life.
I was teaching a youth ministry seminar a few weeks back where mentioned Shane Claiborne as an example for a point to make. Within the crowd there was a young couple from Brazil who had spent the last few years in an African country (cannot remember exactly) doing medical & teenager mission work. Being the awesome presenter that I am.. haha! I asked them directly, ‘do you know who I am talking about?’ There response was “No” so I started off describing Shane as a “middle aged white guy like me” & then when on from there. Connie, was in the group and jumped on me about saying he was middle aged. My thoughts in saying that were, he & I are about the same age (he’s a few more days than a year younger than me), me at 36 about to be 37. The life expectancy of an American born today is almost 79.. For my birth years it is around 72. So if the middle age of 72 is 36 then I am classifiable as “middle aged.”
This was most sobering when I turned 35 and said to my wife, “I’m halfway to 40, wow!” Her response was, “No stupid, you’re halfway to 70. You were halfway to 40 when you were 20.” Me.. “Crap!”
Missy Buchanan has a piece on the Boomers not wanting to ‘age’ according to the preset age’ism of the church, posted in Ministry Matters. I think this paragraph is spot on in the problem trending problem.
According to Hanson, a primary key to understanding boomers is to realize that they are keenly interested in staying young and are likely to resist anything associated with aging, old, or senior. Just consider our culture, which sends a strong message that aging well is all about remaining young, active and healthy. It’s not surprising that an invitation to join a group called the Amazing Grays would be met with little interest by boomers. In fact, boomers would likely consider such a group as something for their parents or slightly-older counterparts, but not for them. It’s not that they intend to snub their older peers, it’s just that they don’t see themselves in this role.
It is no joke that we are so stuck trying to be young in our culture. Youth culture is a prevailing market place. Billions of dollars are spent on ways to remain ‘young’ and it has been that way for as long as I can remember (thinking of you Oil of Olay commercials, sorry just Olay now). Adult parents are constantly trying to be “cool” (heck, adult youth leaders try to be “cool” all the time) and that is some mark of successful parenting. However, teen movies mock that trend, as teens many times do.
What is our problem with aging? The prospect of death that comes with aging? The idea that we might be our parents, whom we probably vowed never to be when we were younger?
Needless to say, as the church moves forward into the next decade plus it will need to figure out how to communicate to aging communities that doesn’t want to be older. Young adults probably don’t care for the monikers of “United Methodist Men / Women” (very established groups in my denominational tribe). The boomers probably don’t want to claim a “Young at Heart” (my local tribe). Millennials probably don’t want anything to do with our groups at all regardless of names.