Two weeks ago I wrote about young people and the church, specifically about their (seeming) absence. Now, I want to focus on older adults and the church. The average age of mainline denominational churches is getting older. This is often referred to as the “graying of the church,” and it has some people feeling a little anxious. One reason people are worried is because they miss the church of their youth when there were lots of young families with children running around. But others worry that if the average age of the church keeps growing older, and younger people never show up, the church will become a relic of the past. While I can’t make any predictions about young families returning to churches (there are a lot of demands on the time and resources of young families), I do believe that the second concern that the church will eventually fade away is unfounded. There is a reason why older people are drawn to church in greater numbers and always will be.
The psychologist Carl Jung divided life into two halves and believed that each half of life was marked by specific developmental tasks. In the first half of life the focus is on establishing one’s identity, security, and importance in the world. Once that is accomplished, one moves into the second half of life where the focus becomes finding a deeper purpose and meaning that will enable one to mature through the inevitable losses and disappointments of life. For many, this “deeper purpose and meaning” can only be discovered in a spiritual community. I believe that as the church ages, it heads into deeper spiritual waters—uncovering a new dimension in scripture, experiencing mission as a true relationship, and opening to the mystery and energy of God.
This week, one of our older members, Merlyn Cummings, responded to Scott Eschbach’s sermon by declaring “I’m still being called!” and then proposed a new ministry that he would undertake. As you know, Merlyn has a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life, is always growing and learning, and glows with the spirit. May we all be so open to God and willing to enter into the ministries that the wisdom of age is preparing us for.