I hear it all the time, “I wish there were more young people in my small group,” or “I think I’ll just stay home, because I’m too old for the crowd at the fellowship.” We’ve fostered this “separation” mentality in the church by dividing up the classes or groups we offer and segregating the body of believers by age, marriage, or some other reason. On the surface, the logic is sound, the purpose is intentional, and it makes a lot of good sense. People do well in groups they share similarities with and generally open up more. But, has it really made the right difference? Has this practice been effective in the church?
I believe these behaviors have hurt the church significantly and through these seemingly little things we’ve created a bigger problem. I believe we’ve created a comfort in surrounding ourselves with people so similar that we have developed a handicap that discourages relationships with people less similar—with those we don’t understand or think we can’t relate to, but should try to. Similarities can be good and create an atmosphere of comfort. But, we’re not really here to be comfortable.
In many ways, we’ve created a chasm we’re unsure how to cross. I know so many mature, wise, and loving older believers who would snatch up any chance to mentor a young person. And, I know there are young people yearning for authentic discipleship from those same older believers. We seem to get stuck though, lost in the cycle of uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt. Dare we disciple the young adult, the parents, and the elderly together? Is that even possible? The young women in the singles group want to know the married women; the older women want to connect with the younger women. I know that to be true, because I was once that young adult wanting so much more than to be surrounded by only other young adults.
Aside from a young adults group that met at a specific time and place in the church, there didn’t seem to be anywhere else I could go when I was a younger believer. With the exception of a chance meeting over a hobby or church event, how do we make connections? How can we be searching for one another and continually miss the mark? How can we be intentional with our relationships to become more inclusive instead of exclusive? Does it really matter? It matters.
The purpose of this writing is to address an element of the sweeping identity crisis we’re facing in the church. Let me qualify this more appropriately: in the American church.
For most older people, I could probably sum up a host of perceived problems in and out of the church with the word “Millennial.” But, friends, let’s be honest, Millennials aren’t really the problem and I’m not here to put them down. You might think they can be a problem, but they are not the problem. They are not the chief problem in the church at least. How do I know that? Well, if we remove every Millennial from the face of the earth, will that create a perfect world? No. Why? Sin. It’s all of us collectively who create the problems in the world. This isn’t something that just developed in the last 20 years or is isolated to one group of people. This is a long-term humanity problem. Our identity has been skewed since the fall of man and our identities can be really messed up.
To be continued…