The church is getting older.
It might not seem like it where you are but there has been a steep decline in church attendance beginning with the baby boomers (those born between1946-1964) and continuing to the present generation. The most recent statistics indicate that we are not far from the place where the majority in the United States will identify themselves as something other than Protestant.
This presents a great challenge.
One is to reach the generation growing up around us. In many cases this group relates better to grandparents than parents.
In the church I serve there is an 87-year-old widow. She no longer drives. But she has become a Pioneer Club pal to a child some 80 years younger. That involves things like remembering a birthday, speaking briefly at a worship service, and praying for her pal.
To date, every child from age 2 to 5th graders has had a pal. Sometimes the child is invited to the pal’s home. On occasion pals attend school functions in which the child is participating. They might celebrate a birthday together.
There are adults who seem fearful of interacting with young people – especially middle and high schoolers.
If you’re a grandparent you have a great place to start. Should your grandchildren do what the vast majority of young people are predicted to do-either never start or drop out of church? Is it possible for you to build enough of a relationship with them so that you can be heard when you encourage them to follow Jesus? Are you willing to pray for them – regularly, fervently?
If you’re willing to take a bigger risk, talk to the person responsible for children or youth ministry at your church. Ask if there’s a place where you can help.
Another older lady in our church has participated in a project with our children and youth over the last two summers. One Sunday she gave her testimony to the group. She said she did it because she wants to get to know our young people.
A retired couple in our church has been Pioneer Club leaders for some time. They have become critical in making that ministry work. And they light up when they talk about the children– the way they memorize Scripture, what they do in their groups.
To make an impact will take more than a Sunday or two. Think of it as a long-term investment in the Kingdom.
Another challenge is this. There are seniors who are feeble and all but forgotten. They don’t come to services and after a while they’re not missed. Sometimes their faith gets shaky as this life draws to a close. A great many others have a faith that has never been sure. This is one reason so many of their children have decided not to make the Christian pilgrimage.
As those associated with the church advance in years it is our privilege and responsibility to demonstrate the reality of the gospel to them.
Last year one of our small groups took on the challenge of doing the “honey do” list an elderly couple had accumulated. They have suffered much. Their health is declining. And that group reminded them – our hope is real.
Were I to live through another generation or two, I might have trouble recognizing the church. But I am confident of this. There will be a church. And it will be composed of every age group just as it has people today from every nation, tribe, tongue, and generation.
We’ll see God work, in part, through our actions.