Tuesday, March 29, 2011

crossing the lines of age we draw in the church

I borrowed a book from my Mom a few days ago that looked really interesting. And upon reading it - definitely has been an interesting read. The book is called Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith . . . and How to Bring Them Back, by Drew Dyck. There is much I could write about the book, but that's not what prompted this post.

I read a few sentences in one of the chapters that jumped off the page at me because they resonated with something I have wondered about for a while. I have often wondered whether our division of the church according to age was a good thing.
"According to Smith's research,* one key indicator of whether or not young people stick with their faith was intergenerational connections. Basically, those young people who had relationships to older Christians, whether their parents or other faithful congregants, were far less likely to abandon their faith in their twenties." (Generation Ex-Christian, pg. 177)
I guess having grown up in a church that my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were active members of, I was incredibly blessed to have those intergenerational connections happen naturally. But, I also know of many other people in the church of other generations who took an interest in my life, and still do. Until the last few years I have taken that for granted. I realized how blessed I was in a conversation with a friend who came to follow Christ as a young adult and really only knows other young adults at church well.

It makes me wonder if we have lost some of the richness of the church as the body of Christ by always segregating people by age for church events. I wonder if we need to once again become more intentional about connecting the generations in our church. After all, the body of Christ needs all of us to function as God intended it, but we cannot do that if we never talk to anyone outside of a ten year age span around our age.

There is definitely a place for youth groups and young adults ministries and seniors ministries, but there needs to be a place for ministry that speaks to more than one generation at a time. If we do not do that, we will risk losing young adults in the church. Even with the strong family of faith I come from, I love sitting around a table at the women's Bible studies I am a part of with women of all different ages and walks of life. I learn so much more than if I was to sit at a table doing the same study with all people my own age. We have much to learn from the other generations in the church.

It makes me a bit sad sometimes to sit in a church service and look around to see all the youth sitting in one area, the young adults in another, young families in another, seniors in another. Why the separation? Yes, I know we want to sit with friends or family. But, I have found that my favourite place to sit is with people who have been followers of Christ for more years than I have been alive. There is a richness to their worship that I cannot describe.

So I am left to wonder, how do we develop intergenerational connections better? How do we develop those connections so that young adults have stronger ties to the church as a whole? How do we connect youth and young adults who are not from Christian families with the older generations in the church to help them grow?

*Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005), pg. 162-163


  1. I concur with your thoughts
    our efforts in the past generation to cater to specific age group weakens our ability to understand the gift God gave us in being the Body of Christ.
    When I first came to kelowna mb church over 30 years ago I found it quite east to get to know people of all generations. I think church size also can contribute to this but as churches we have also intentionally moved into a segregated model

  2. I really liked this!

    I did not grow up in a christian home, but my grandparents were christians, strangely just resently God has been sharing with me the blessings of my grandparents in my life today! And how that's being passed on to my kids, their grandkids!

    Anyway, I like what you wrote because i agree with it! lol And have actually been experiencing some of it recently! Just tonight we went to dinner at "the Wiebes"! I've known them longer than i've been going to church. I went to elementary school with thier daughter Annette! I became a christian in grade 11. The Wiebes are in their 70's, and they and their whole family are a second family to me! They've blessed me and my own family SOO much and in so many ways! Just by their simple friendship! We go to many of their family dinners, (thanksgiving easter) and we're part of their family as well!

    As well, when matt was out of work, we recently found out that a whole bible study group had been praying for us, and are still praying for us. This is a group of people a little younger than our own parents. Alot of them have been mentors to me while/since i was in youth, and now they're walking along side Matt as well!

    I love this about my church! it's small, and we sit in our segragated areas, but in the end we're a family, and that's why I love it and that's what drew me in in the first place! And THAT is one of those things that has encouraged me in my walk with God, because i find him in that kind of unity and love!

    Just thought i'd share that! When i read your blog, that's what came to mind! Thanks for sharing! i love reading! :)