“Unfortunately, the church has pushed us older ones aside, allowing the younger generation to be the main focus.”
That’s what one commenter wrote in response to an earlier episode in our Everyday Christian series of columns.
That columnist was writing about how they wished there were more Millennials and Gen Z people in their particular church.
The comment set me thinking or, actually, re-activated some thinking about church.
I can remember my wife discussing the sermon a couple of years ago – when our church’s priorities came up. “Discipling the young” happens to be one of them.
“We have to recognise that we are no longer in the generation that is the focus of the church,” she said. In fact, we have not been in that generation for a couple of decades.
She was not upset. Neither am I.
Why should I expect, or desire to be in a group – by age, gender, or some other characteristic – that is the focus of the church?
There could very well be good gospel reasons for me not to be the focus of my local church.
For example, there could be a demographic change in the district – such as ethnicity – that means it makes perfect sense for the church to put efforts into reaching a group that is not me.
In my case, like our commentator, the key demographic is age. A lot of my church resources goes into youth and young families. And I am very happy with that.
If it means there is less focus on me and people my age, that is well and good.
Most people my age at church have been Christians a long time. We can step up and look after each other. We can step back, too – from upfront roles that some might see prestige in.
And we can look after, and pastor each other.
If Jesus came not to be served but to serve – we can do some of that too.
I am reminded of what happened at my childhood church which went through a time when a couple of generations went missing. A bunch of 60-year-olds stepped up and re-started a youth program.
“Ask not what your church can do for you – ask what you can do for your church.”
Yes, it can hurt to feel squeezed out of a role you have treasured at church (or anywhere else).
I have seen people hurt in music groups for example. Or in kids’ ministry. Or being rejected for a role on a committee.
Maybe there was unjust treatment. Or maybe not. There certainly was hurt.
I think we all are vulnerable. But the only way to not run the risk of being poorly treated in a messy ending of one of these roles (and it has happened to me) is never to step forward. That’s not the answer.
I suspect the reason the Bible talks about Christians forgiving each other is that we will stuff up. Sometimes badly.
So given that you are working with sinners – yes, at church – rough treatment will occur. And I am sad about that. Really sad.
But I will be even sadder if I hear of you hanging onto resentment at loosing a role or assignment at church. In extreme cases, leave gracefully if it all gets to much. But stay if you can, gracefully.
So let me misquote John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “Ask not what your church can do for you – ask what you can do for your church.”
“Ask not what your church can do to bolster you opportunity to shine – ask what you can do for your church to shine.”
“Ask not what your church can do to recognise the good in you – ask what you can do to recognise the good in your church.”