3 Reasons people over 60 leave church

analog

Some of our seasoned saints still live in an analog age that seems strangely out of place…

By Joe LaGuardia

In the last few decades, churches have been scrambling to attract young adults.  Reaching this age group is a momentous task that requires changes in worship, leadership, preaching, and outreach.

Much of this change has been for the better — an ever fluid and reforming church is usually one with an eye towards the Holy Spirit.

Change comes with a cost, however–one that few pastors weigh.

In my own community, just east of Atlanta, I meet many young people who attend church on a regular basis.  The church market is flooded with young adult-friendly options.

It is the over-60 crowd that worries me, and I am not the only one who is concerned.

It seems that whenever I meet people of older generations–Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation, as they are called– I find out that they don’t go to church.  Many claim that they no longer feel at home in places of worship once familiar.

When I dig deeper, themes emerge and people usually give me one of three reasons why they stopped going to church.

One reason is that churches have changed worship to the point that older generations now feel out of place and ill-prepared to keep up.  Complaints focus on music and preaching.

Most of the large churches in my area have changed to contemporary worship.  Although contemporary music is good, it tends to be too loud, according to many people I’ve polled.

And sermons are getting too long.  Pastors, worried about the rise of biblical illiteracy in their congregations, have shifted from preaching sermons to teaching sermons.  This has led to longer sermons of a particular style with which older folks fail to connect.

Keep in mind that very few people are offended or opposed to different styles of worship, but many do not appreciate what appears to be a growing disregard for choirs, tradition, and a fundamental honoring of the church hour (and, only one hour is needed!) as a sacred time with God.

Everyone wants a church filled with energetic, enthusiastic young people; but, they don’t want to attend a service that feels like a youth group for adults.

A second reason why the over-60 crowd is dropping out of church is because our culture has changed so rapidly, and churches are reactive rather than proactive in negotiating these changes.

Church, they argue, is supposed to be a safe place that helps families transition into a future-looking faith, but not force it.

The prevailing feeling is that an encroaching culture of change in the digital age has dumbed down faith.  Add to that narrative the perception that preaching now focuses on self-help gimmickry rather than “Bible-based preaching” (not my words), then it seems the church has lost its way.

A third reason our seasoned saints no longer attend church is that they are busy like everyone else.  This has to do with the changing landscape of family life and split families.

Whereas families used to live in the same neighborhoods and attend the same churches, many families are spread across the state or the nation.

Grandparents have to travel in order to visit adult children and grandchildren.

The effects of cultural shifts, anxious churches trying to attract younger churchgoers, and a transient family landscape has led to the decline of older generation attendance.

Frankly, we have not balanced the need to change with the honoring of traditions that have brought stability over the years.  In reaching for one generation, we’ve left another behind by taking people for granted.

Perhaps it’s time for us to right the ship, take a hard look at the cost of change, and be the presence of Christ for every generation that values joining God at work in the world rather than simply meeting God within the walls of a church.

When it comes to worship and Christ’s mission, no one should be left behind.

 

 

Five qualities of a church with Vision

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This article is curated from EthicsDaily.com. 

By Matt Sapp

I attended a few weeks ago Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, a satellite host site for the summit in Atlanta. The unofficial motto of the summit is Bill Hybel’s repeated reminder that “everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

That’s the goal of the summit: to make leaders – and particularly Christian leaders – better at what they do. This year’s theme was “A Grander Vision.” As the challenges we face get bigger and as the rate of change around us continues to accelerate, it takes big vision and big courage to keep up.

One of the things I wrestle with almost daily is how the church can adapt to rapidly changing cultural and social contexts.

What I sometimes forget, though, is that it’s not just the church that’s having to adapt. Everyone – every institution and every individual from every walk of life – is having to adapt to the pace of change, too. – Read more at EthicsDaily.com

Scott Boulevard Baptist: A Church Without Walls

scott boulevard

Scott Boulevard Baptist Church June 2015

By Joe LaGuardia

A pile of rubble and a towering, broken steeple are all that is left of the historic Scott Boulevard Baptist Church building on the corner of Scott Boulevard and North Decatur Road in Decatur, Georgia. To many passersby, it is an eyesore. To those who are entrenched in Baptist history and the life of Scott Boulevard in particular, it is a foreboding reminder of the many churches that have closed over the last few decades.

But one must look past the pile of tile, wood, and steel.  One must look deeper, beyond plywood frames where stained glass once stood, and find that the wrangled structure does not mark an end to a sixty-year old church, but a new beginning.

Just as the building’s demise communicates the fragility of all our churches, it also communicates the need for many churches to redefine what it means to be a holy people, set apart for the work of the Gospel.

As the Bible says, perishable items, church buildings notwithstanding, perish, but the Word of God will last forever.

That very Word promises that God’s Body—Christ as represented by the church—also lasts, but in many different forms.

Unbeknownst to those who see a ghost of a great church of yesteryear on a busy downtown corner, Scott Boulevard Baptist Church is actually thriving in a new location, that of the prayer chapel at First Baptist Church of Decatur.  Sure, Scott Boulevard does not have the same assets it once did when a building was readily available, but it has found new life in ministry that has reached—literally—beyond brick and mortar.

Scott Boulevard Baptist garners about 35 people in worship, but much of the congregation’s worship and ministry take place in the homes and apartments of seniors who are homebound or shut-in.  Two ministries, developed over the last two years and funded by the sale of the building, drive the church’s new vision and focus into the future.

The first ministry, called Care Partners, is an expanded deacon ministry of sorts, a group made up of caregivers and other care providers for as many as 30 members of the church who are no longer able to attend.  Care Partners pray for loved ones and keep in touch in a variety of ways.

The second ministry, Church at Home, consists of several lay members and clergy gathering in the home of seniors to provide prayer, worship, fellowship, and Bible study.  Taking Jesus’ promise in Matthew 18:20 that “where two or more are gathered in my name, I will be among them” seriously, the pastor of Scott Boulevard Baptist, Rev. Greg Smith, feels that this is a unique and vibrant aspect of the church’s ministry.

Church at Home provides spiritual community and support for individuals who would otherwise be isolated.  “In selling our aging building,” Pastor Smith wrote by email, “We have chosen to sustain people instead of property.”

The church is ready to launch a third major ministry called Spiritual Friends, which seeks to reach underprivileged senior citizens in the local community.  This will move Scott Boulevard Baptist beyond its own membership and have an ecumenical, if not interfaith component.

According to Pastor Smith, this focus on missional engagement and intentional outreach to a population other churches would render beyond their scope of ministry is what keeps the legacy of Scott Boulevard Baptist alive: “There is more face-to-face ministry happening now than in any other time since I started to pastor the church in 2007.”

Although there are many who grieve the dismantling of old Scott Boulevard Baptist, we should not grieve the loss of a congregation because the church is fulfilling a unique niche in the downtown Decatur district.

If anything, other churches should celebrate and mimic this church, which survived a cultural chrysalis of change against all odds.

Scott Boulevard Baptist teaches us that no church should be defined by its building, but by the magnitude of its ministry.  Only when a church defines that unique asset does it become the presence of Christ in the immediate neighborhood.