Middle-Aged Women Face a Crisis of Discipleship by M. VanLoon
IMHO, this situation is ten times worse if you’re a never married, childless (or child-free) woman over the age of 30. I started noticing by around my mid-30s that most evangelical or Baptist churches cater to “married with couples kids.” They ignore anyone who is not a young married couple with kids still living at home.
The lady who wrote the following, M. VanLoon, is married with 2 or 3 kids and is either in her 40s or 50s.
I’ve read her material before. She said that she didn’t notice how horrible churches ignore all non-Nuclear Family demographics until her last kid grew up and moved out, leaving her and her spouse as “empty nesters.”
But it’s true. Most American churches don’t pay attention to anyone who is single (never married), or widowed, divorced, or childless.
I did a post similar to this one over a year ago.
(Link): George Barna presents sobering data reflecting the quiet exodus from the church among boomers and gen x-ers. The data indicates it isn’t just millennials leaving the church but sizeable numbers of those at midlife and beyond.
In their recent book Church Refugees, sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope also bring hard science to explore the reasons driving this exodus among those who say they’re (Link): done with the institution but not done with Jesus.
Though the study includes people across all age groups, their work affirms and expands upon what I’d been hearing anecdotally: In local churches, there’s often a discipleship gap for older members.
…Anecdotally, most of the church leaders I’m in touch with admit they haven’t given much thought to what discipleship might look like for their older members (especially women) beyond maintaining the spiritual growth from their youth.
(Link): Writer and speaker Melinda Schmidt, too, has observed that some leaders are more comfortable with familiar discipleship tools geared toward young believers instead of mid-lifers and retirees.
…If a local church focuses primarily on young families in the builder stages (one through three) of their lives, the roles available to older women are often limited to serving in the nursery or making coffee at coffee hour.
In her essay “The Invisible Generation,” Sarah Bessey captured the problem when she noted that “women in the middle of their lives … felt invisible and ignored by the church, the same way they feel invisible or ignored in our culture. … I heard their hurt, sorrow, and stoicism about life within the church.”
These women often feel marginalized both as disciples and disciplers. Who, then, is asking what discipleship looks like for them? And what do middle-aged women want their discipleship of others to look like?