Google search “Ageing Church Congregations” and see what you get. I just tried and got lots of articles about the problem of ageing congreagtions and generally discussed in terms of decline and bad news.
Over the last 30 years lots of material has been produced, and countless talks given, about the importance of attracting young people to the Church. There is also a great deal of concern about the lack of young people in churches. When we talk about a congregation as “aging,” it is as if an “aging congregation” condemns the church to doom and irrelevance. Churches too often operate out of a secular framework of human value.
We have all heard people saying: “this church is full of old people” as if the congregation whose pews are filled with the elderly are not as appreciated. This leads to the question of “how we value old people in our congregations?” When do we hear “we need to attract more old people to our church”? Not often; and yet, they are the fastest growing demographic in society.
In reality, we place higher emphasis on younger people (and an even higher one on young families) than we do on older people. People become commodities, some more worthy of our resources and attention than others. Just like it’s better to have the latest iPhone than an older yet functional cell phone; it’s preferable to have young people in the church over old. However unintentionally, congregations reflect consumerist attitudes rather than critiquing the dominant culture’s dismissing of the elderly.
As one of the few intergenerational institutions left in society, churches have unique opportunities to celebrate the gifts and presence of old people. Rather than shrinking away from an aging congregation, why not take pride in the presence of old members? If our faith communities lack older members, we must ask “why this is the case?” and more importantly “why we aren’t more troubled by this fact?”
The aging of our society is a reality; the first baby boomers started retiring almost a decade ago. This shift in our social landscape will change the face of the church. Local churches need to become more aware of the requirements of the aging population and how to better care for the ageing in their congregations.