Thursday, 1 May 2008

Are They Lost or Just Too Busy?

There is much talk in Methodism about the 'lost generation' - the 20s to 40s - and we hear of congregations where there are none in this age group. Fortunately, we are not in that situation because we have a number of such couples who worship with us and bring their children to our 'Sunday Starters' on Sunday mornings, but their involvement stops there. So I have just sent the following Letter for possible inclusion in our next church Newsletter. It will be interesting to see if it is printed and if there is any response to it, but there is a deep ache in my heart to see these friends as committed as those I met in droves at the ECG event in Llandudno at Easter.

To the under 50s
We hear that there are some churches that are composed only of older people, with nobody under 50 in their congregations. That is not the case here, for we have a number of families younger than that. Yet there was not one person under 50 at our recent General Church Meeting. This letter is to explore the reasons for this.

Perhaps early Sunday afternoon is not the best time for younger families to come to such a meeting? Well, it doesn’t seem to make any difference in alternate years when we hold this meeting in a midweek evening.

Would it make a difference if we provided a crèche for the Sunday event or a baby-sitting service for the evening one?

Can it be that the under 50s are quite content with our style of worship and the way our church is run and are completely devoid of new ideas or vision of what could happen here?

Or do you who are under 50 feel that, with a large number of worshippers, there is no place for change of the kind you would like to see? I hope this is not the case, but are the older people holding on to office too long and preventing you from trying your ‘wings’? A progressive church needs a healthy mix of input from all age groups, so we need to hear from the under 50s.

It may simply be that life is very hectic for the under 50s and, not having a very clear view of what goes on at the General Church Meeting, attendance there has not seemed to matter. If you think such a meeting will be boring, come and see – and no meeting with under 50ss in it will end up being boring, will it?

The Millennium next year will be looking backwards and forwards, but we need the under 50s to help us plan the future church for our children and grandchildren.


PamBG said...

It would be extremely interesting to hear what the responses are, Olive.

Husband and I went on holiday for a week in February to a Christian hotel and, over the weekend, there was a church retreat. It was an Anglican church from nearby and, in fact, we were two of a handful of people staying at the hotel who did not belong to the church group.

It was obviously a very different church than the churches I have. I was told that they had 200 members and, initially, the 35 people at the hotel didn't realise that we were not part of their church.

I don't know the age make-up of the church, although most of the people at the hotel were - I'd guess - in the 35 to 55 age bracket. An architect, a social worker, an engineer, one chap who sat on the board of directors of a company; these are examples of the people I talked to.

The vicar was with this group as well as their former vicar. The two of them kept chanting the mantra 'people are too busy to volunteer at church'; which was not a complaint but more a reflection of their conviction that they church was there to provide 'services' to their parishioners.

I'm only observing this as it's very different from what I'm used to in Methodism, but I do suspect that many young families either are too busy or perceive themselves as too busy.

Will be interested to hear their replies.

Eric Helms said...

I think you are asking a great question, and I hope you generate a response. I am a 28 year old pastor, and one day I would like to serve a church with people my age--and I would like that day to come before my mid-forties! My inclination is that younger families would like to be involved, but they also will be very sensitive to feeling like they are wasting their time. If they end up on a committee discussing who is going to wash the altar cloth, they will soon stop comming.

Olive Morgan said...

Intersting, Pam.
Eric, I quite agree with you. You have hit the nail on the head! Part of the reason for writing as I did was to alert the older folk to the fact that our meetings are boring. I think they are and it does make you feel you're wasting your time and could be spending your time more wisely. I hope to stir things up so that, particularly in the General Church Meeting, we can offer a more exciting agenda that would make people feel they didn't want to miss it. Meanwhile, I'm holding my breath, to see if the Editor will publish it......