Article: Segregated in a Whole New Way

Via Al Mohler on Facebook

The best part:

Whether or not young adults are leaving churches forever or just for a couple of years, I’m not sure age-segregated worship is a wise strategy. No one was more surprised than I that I kept attending church when I moved 2,000 miles away from my family after college. But part of it was that I had been taught that congregations are families that, by definition, include people of all ages and circumstances.

Each of us learns and benefits from caring for the old, the sick, the suffering, and the dying, just as we benefit from the vitality that children, teens, and young adults bring. We all have vastly different experiences in life. By existing together in one community, we all benefit. Some of us experienced World War II in the trenches, and others experienced it by playing Call of Duty on our Xbox.

My dearest friend at my Lutheran church is a widow in her 70s. We became close after her beloved husband died following an extended battle with cancer. From Dolores I have learned how to sacrifice for one’s spouse, enjoy life to the fullest, help neighbors in need, and raise children. If I were to attend a congregation where everyone was roughly my age and at my station in life, how would I learn these valuable lessons in Christian living?

It’s unfortunate enough that many churches tend to be populated by people of the same race or socioeconomic group. But to intentionally segregate worship by age makes things worse. Scripture tells us not to scorn the experiences and wisdom of our elders. Proverbs 16:31 teaches that “gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.”

Ageist worship also deprives older parishioners of the opportunity to improve their patience when dealing with rambunctious young families. The older folks at my congregation fret when the toddlers stand on the kneelers at our Communion rail or make too much noise. Including all age groups in congregational life teaches everyone to live together in love and forbearance.

The desire to reach young adults—or any other targeted demographic group—is noble, but we pander to them when we segregate worship. We should avoid such overreactions and trust the gospel as the creator and preserver of faith for all people of all ages.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Church Ministry, Worship Services. Bookmark the permalink.

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