Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Note About Generations in Churches

I got a lot of great feedback from last Sunday's sermon. I suspect that's for several reasons: One, you've heard (just as I have) too many horror stories about pastors coming into established churches and alienating all of the older members in their efforts to reach young people. Two, it seems to me that most of you like the idea of different generations blending as often as possible in the church. I know it's easier NOT to do it that way. People by nature like to hang out with their own kind (that includes racially, too, which is a topic for a whole other blog post). But older, younger, and middle adults and children can learn so much from one another. This is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Faith in Action Day (October 11). We will get a chance to work alongside people we don't ordinarily spend time we reach out to our community.

Anyhow, if this topic interests you, I wanted to recommend a book. We as a staff right now are reading Who Stole My Church, by Gordon MacDonald. It's written as a fictional account of a church in New England. The "new" pastor has run into some stiff opposition from long-time members over the changes he is making in the church in order to reach younger generations. So the pastor begins meeting with a small group of these older folks to hear their perspective and to come to an understanding of what church is supposed to be.

Frankly, my first reaction when reading the book was, "Thank God we're not as messed up as that church!" But it spoke much more deeply than that. For people who wonder why it's so hard to change things in a church, this book paints an effective picture of people who really feel that something precious is being stolen from them. For people who wonder why things have to change, this book does a good job of showing the need to reach new generations in new ways without changing the message. For all of us, it gives a hopeful story of how a church really could become effective at reaching younger people without alienating older generations. If you get a chance to read it, make sure and tell me what you think.

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