One of the themes of this blog is exploring how and why so many American churches and denominations and the Christian community in general either ignore never-married Christians over the age of 30, or treat them like garbage.
On a similar note, I’ve noticed that a lot of American Christians are guilty of ignoring or not caring about the needs or spiritual growth of anyone over 25 years of age.
My mother used to take me to church weekly when I was a child. We moved often, so the older I got, we did not attend churches as often.
I definitely remember feeling welcomed at church at ages 3 to 10. I did not feel like an outsider at a young age. There were Bible stories for us read out of kiddie Bibles, and punch and cookies.
I went to different churches here and there, off and on, in my 20s, but not often enough to pick up a feel of how Christians treated 20 somethings.
I began going to church regularly again when I was in my mid 30s. It was then, walking in to a church alone at 35 or 36, that I felt out of place and peculiar. It was then I began to notice how I was one of the few people sitting alone in the pews. Everyone else was part of a couple.
I further began noticing how most of the sermons or activities were for married couples or pertained to parenting.
I had wondered if I was alone in noticing or feeling these things until a few years ago, I began reading the occasional book about singlehood in Christianity.
The authors of these books confirmed it was not in my imagination, and that a lot of other unmarried Christians past the age of 30 noticed the same things I was.
One of the books I read, Quitting Church, by author Julia Duin, mentioned how churches are alienating not just unmarried people in general, but anyone over the age of 25, and I agree. (Please click the “more” link to read the rest of the post)
Almost any time I see church membership figures discussed by preachers on television shows or on blogs, and how Barna research and other pollsters and survey groups report that church membership and attendance is in steep decline, these preachers wring their hands in worry and wonder how they can attract more people.
One of the common solutions I see offered by preachers is to entice the under- age – 25 demographic to attend, which seems to mean putting a rock band on stage during Sunday morning services and having the pastor dress in casual clothing and flip flops.
Not only is extra focus on the under-25s terribly unfair to anyone over 25 (i.e., it’s ageist), but it makes the entire affair irrelevant – especially for female Christians.
I felt very comfortable in a church environment when I was 4, 6, or 10 years old, but when I walked back in at mid-30s, not at all.
While churches offer programs, songs, activities for children, and acknowledge children from the pulpit every now and then, preachers and the church community don’t mention or tailor anything for people over the age of 30, except for the occasional “divorce recovery” groups.
If you are a female, your problem is ten fold. Most conservative churches are against a female leading or teaching at any time or for any reason, or some churches permit older (as in over the age of 20) females to serve only in very limited roles, such as baby sitter in the church nursery.
If you are a female who has no interest in babies or children, you are not going to have any desire at all in serving around children, so working in the nursery will not be appealing or make one feel as though one has purpose.
If you are a female who God has gifted in areas of teachings or leading, most churches, due to their “gender complementarian” views (views which are not biblical, contrary to what they believe), will not allow you to practice those gifts.
It’s a very shocking, startling experience to be told by churches that they love and accept you when you are a five year old or a ten year old female child and to feel that inclusion, but they have no use for you when you hit 20, 30- something, 40+- something.
This situation is made ten times worse if you are a never married, childless female over 25 years of age.
Here’s my question for the preachers who are consumed with attracting people who are under 25 years old: why? What is the point in attracting these younger people if you only intend on turning around in another five years and totally ignoring them?
Do you only care about getting their butt in the pew when they are 15, and getting them “saved?” Do you not care about what happens to them when they are 30 and facing career problems? Or when they are 35, still not married and wanting help from the church in getting a mate? Or when they are 45, 50 years old and trying to care for aging parents?
If you are not going to care for the needs and pain of people over the age of 25 / 30 now (and most of you preachers and churches do not), why are you reeling in kids today – just so you can ignore and ostracize them in another five to ten years?
In reading about the decline of church membership, I’ve also come across the anecdotal evidence that many churches are also guilty of ignoring the widows and widowers in their churches, especially the ones over 50 or 60 years of age.
If you are in your 20s and are reading this and consider yourself a committed Christian, and you attend church fairly regularly, let me tell you what’s in store for you in ten or 15 years: most churches will not give a hoot about you.
Most churches will not extend much effort at trying to meet your needs, to hold on to your membership and participation, hold activities that are of use to you or your life stage.
And if you mention any of this, you will be told all the usual cliches, such as…
You go to church to serve, not be served; stop the pity party; you should be more “servant minded,” etc.
In other words, most preachers and church staff don’t care if you feel alienated or ignored. They don’t care and don’t want to do anything to rectify the situation.
Unless the American church makes some radical changes, I would advise people to stay away, including anyone under 25.
Why would any church expend so much time, money, and energy trying to attract teenagers, knowing full well that in another 15 – 20 years, they will brush these people aside to again focus on the ages three to 25?