Young and Old in Church

I had a letter read on CBC radio last week. It was a bit of an event for me… nearly everyone else in the family has managed to get on CBC (well, my sister has anyway), so now it was my turn. The letter was in response to a short documentary aired on the Vancouver Island morning show on Radio 1.

In this program, the interviewer was looking at spirituality amongst younger people in Victoria. Apparently only about 2-5% of the population of Victoria attends church on a regular basis (compare that to about 20% nationally and closer to 45-50% in the United States). However, we are one in one of the most spiritually rich places in North America. They then investigated some churches that are working to reach out to the “20 & 30-something” demographic (of which I am a part). One of the church leaders interviewed is the leader of a church-plant by one of the break-away Anglican groups in North America. In the course of the interview, it was revealed that this church, as well as the other featured church, aim their services exclusively at the 20-30’s in Victoria. I say exclusively because the interviewer could not attend a service because he was “too old”.

Too old?! Since when is anyone too old for church? One of the techniques (if you can call it that) is the cafe-style of church where participants sit around in groups and each, in turn, expound on the topic of the day. Call me crazy, but I am sure that there are some in the older generations to whom this would appeal and there are as many in the target generation who would benefit from the wisdom of their elders.

With that in mind, I sat down and wrote a letter.

“Maybe I am an abnormal 20-something, but I know I am not alone amongst 20-somethings in these sentiments: I go to church on a near-weekly basis and, even more shocking, go to a church with a number of people who could be my parents and grandparents. And I love it. Excluding older generations from church is not only presumptuous but a little short-sighted. One of the things I value about my “church experience” is the opportunity to interact with multiple generations. Where else can people interact with kids, teens, young adults, middle aged and elderly adults all at once? I have learnt many, many things from these older generations both about life and faith. By preventing that interaction, young adults leave themselves without mentor-ship and close themselves off to a world of experience and growth. Maybe they’ve forgotten, but those 80-year-old’s were 20-somethings like us once and a lot of them were trying to push the boundaries of church then the way we are today.”

They read it on air.

Thoughts? Do you like going to church with multiple generations? Or would you rather spend your Sunday morning/evening with people solely your own age? Have you gained anything from worshipping with older folk or does it detract from your experience?


4 thoughts on “Young and Old in Church

  1. I completely agree and think the idea of an exclusive church is completely ludicrous. When we examine Christ’s teachings on the body of Christ we almost always always limit it to the variety of skill sets people have, both spiritual and otherwise. But there is more variety in life then merely the skills or talents we have. As you mention, there is a great variety of wisdoms and knowledges that both older and, I would include, younger people have. Christ was adamant that the children also have something to teach us!

    Church is meant to be a body with many parts, many wisdoms and, even, many beliefs. I know this would shock some people but we don’t need to agree with everyone we go to church with. Someone who cloisters themselves in a body which only includes one viewpoint or one age group or one worldview is sidelining themselves from the holistic engagement with the world that Christ championed.

    Just my two cents… 🙂

    • Totally Eric… thanks for your two cents! History would seem to indicate that seclusion/exclusion has never been a good policy for anything.

      Minutes after they read my letter, I got a text from a friend in town and she asked about the longevity of such a group. Specifically, do they kick people out when they reach the magic upper-limit age? Or how do they deal with that?!

  2. Kudo’s Gillian. I have to agree with you. Church is community and that can and should include all generations. Last night we went out to play games with a young couple with 2 small children from our church. I got to play with their daughters – get lots of youthful hugs and more! I know that other members of the congregation have also befriended them and occasionally – babysit, act as a second adult at swim lessons and more. Many have said that it takes a village to raise a child. We’re happy to be part of that “village”. In turn we try and bring older residents of a senior’s home near-by out to church events that run outside of their standard busing time. They love coming out and seeing the children. It adds light and energy to their lives and I surely hope that when I am their age I won’t feel as if I am being shoved off into a corner by myself.

    • I think you have too many people in your life who love and care about you Bev for you to be shoved into a corner! If so, it will be the most populated corner ever. I’ll come visit. 🙂

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