Recently I posted a blog about our emphasis on the Gen Y and the Youth Culture at the expense of the older people in our church. Here are some more observations of what I see is an imbalance which the churches needs to consider. (In saying this I am mindful that I am as much guilty as everyone else). So some observations.
- It’s interesting that when we consider hiring staff, invariably one person we want to employ will be a youth worker. Very rarely do I hear of someone being hired specifically for equipping and empowering the 50+ group for evangelism and growing the church. When we do employ someone for this group it is usually with a view for “Caring” for them rather than mobilising them.
- Because the young are often seen as the future of the church, a healthy church is often measured by the size of their youth group. On the other hand, churches consisting of merely older people are often seen as churches waiting to die. This way of thinking is most clearly seen in a church that is constantly losing the young people due to the cost of living in the area. Because of this many leaders feel very uncertain about the future of the church. However while many may cry over the lost of the young, many fail to see the potential and the enormous harvest to be reaped amongst the older people.
- While there is a lot of guidance and opportunities for the young to serve there seems to be less for the older generation. This is even more tragic if a person becomes a Christian at a later stage in their life. Because there is generally very little by way of encouragement and equipping for the older generation, this only further enhances a retirement mentality. I saw this particularly with one ministry that wanted to focus on training those in their early 30′s (OK I’m using young in a very broad sense) and under. When the challenge was put to consider training the older it was flatly rejected. Now every ministry has to make a call as to what it wants to focus on. Fair enough. Yet we still need to ask why focus on the young given the opportunities, the enormous potential and opportunities amongst the older, many of whom are waiting on the sideline to be asked to play the game.
- It’s worth saying again that the publicity and the shear number of ministries and institutions dedicated to reaching the young and equipping them far exceeds what is available for the older generation. In this I mean ministries and institutions that are more than “caring” ministries but ministries dedicated to training and empowering 50+ guys.
- While many of our training institutions are “open” to 50+ to signing up for training, there is no concerted effort to specifically recruit this group. On the other hand there is a massive concerted effort to “Target” and recruit the next generation.
OK these are just a few observations. So why such an emphasis on the young? Why so much energy and resources directed to this group? One explanation is the commonly held perception that most people are converted in their teenage years. This was the message that was certainly conveyed to me at one conference I attended a few years ago and repeated again at another conference. So if this is true, it’s not surprising that we should be strategically throwing on we can to reach them. However I wonder just how true this is? In a lecture Dr Don A Carson gave at St Barnarbas Broadway in Sydney, some years ago, he was challenging this commonly held perception. His argument was that, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, the high conversion amongst young people can be reasonably and easily explained as a function of the shear amount of resources we direct to reaching this group.Think about it. We have organisations like Scipture Union, Crusaders, Ferver, Youthworks, ISCF, KYLC (aka NextGen). Sydney Missionary Bible College runs an annual conference for those working amongst the youth. In recent times we have the rise of ministries like RICE. I’m sure there are many many more ministries like these dedicated to equipping our leaders to reach the youth of Sydney. So given the scale of our engagement is it any wonder why most people get converted in their younger years. But when it comes to ministries dedicated to reaching the 50+ let alone equipping our members to reach this group, I think we’d be very hard pressed to come up with a few. And those that are around usually run as a “caring” ministry rather than a mobilising or equipping ministry.
Back to Carson. Given his reflections, he decided to redirect his time, money and energy, NOT to the young, but to reaching a different but difficult group ie the Men. And surprise surprise he found many many men coming to know the lord. Now obviously it is God who gives the growth, nevertheless it needs to be said that there seems to be an undue emphasis in equipping and evangelising this group at the expense of the rest of the body of Christ. The unfortunate consequence of this is that a major part of God’s church is not being utilized to grow his church and a major sector of our community is not being reached with the gospel.
We are in a time in Australian society where our population is aging very rapidly. Maybe it’s time to give more time, energy and money to equipping those in our churches in the prime of their life to reaching those outside the church.