Thursday, March 01, 2007

Intergenerational gap

Nearly every book I've read on church growth calls for targeting a specific age and socio-economic group for evangelism. That approach is perfect except for one thing: it bears no resemblance to the church as established by Jesus and the apostles. With that in mind, it was encourageing to find that Chad Hall, writing in Leadership Journal, has similar ideas:
As a church planter and ministry coach, I've worked with churches who are primarily young and others who are obviously older. What these churches have in common is a voiced desire for community. Yet that "community" is often a veiled form of group narcissism. Young or old, they want to do church with people who are like us and who, in turn, are easy to like.

We want relationships in service to Christ's mission to be smooth and tension-free. We don't want to get bogged down in the messy problems raised by how differently older and younger people see the world.

As tempting as it may be to do church with friends only, there are at least three good reasons to resist age gentrification of church.
I recommend reading Mr. Hall's full article and finding out what those three things are.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The church in heaven will transcend nation, tribe and tongue. Though it is difficult to always do so here, I think we should be working towards that ideal. Donald McGavran was a missions leader who influenced the church growth movement. The problem that McGavran was trying to overcome was social barriers in India. We do have social barriers but not the extreme type that are in India.

Jeremiah 31:13
Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Terry from Terry Pruitt's Blog

6:14 PM, March 01, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Amen, Terry. Thanks for your comments.

7:54 AM, March 02, 2007  
Blogger Dan Edelen said...


Although I disagree with targeting a demographic, it's inevitable.

For the most part, we live, work, and play with people like us. I would be surprised if this were not the case. We are tribal, though few of us think of ourselves that way in the 21st century.

So our evangelism and our churches take on a homogeneous flavor. I think the books that note this do so because it's the tendency anyway, so why not exploit it to the max?

I'm not saying I agree with that view, but I certainly understand it. Most churches feel a burden already to be all things to all people, so what happens when that mix of people gets more wildly divergent?

I live in that mix between penturbia and rural. I can tell you right now that it's 98% white farmers, the people who support them, and a few white-collar professionals using the area as a bedroom community. You step into any church within twenty miles of here and that's the mix you're going to see. When evangelism happens, it happens to those same people. So the demographic perpetuates. You'll find no folks of Asian ancestry, precious few of African, and a tiny handful of Hispanic. You won't find those ethnicities driving forty miles to come to our church, either.

Now all bets are off in an urban church, but still. Two white PCA'ers aren't going to walk into a black Apostolic Holiness church in a storefront and say, "Wow, just like home!" So what then to expect? How do you become all things to all people all the time?

You can't. You be who you are as a church. If someone comes in off the street who busts your demographic, then you adjust as best you can. Be Jesus to them. Chances are, though, they'll go find a church that ministers right to their demographic. And the cycle of niche-making continues...

11:07 AM, March 02, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Very relevant thoughts, Dan. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

11:11 AM, March 02, 2007  

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