Posted in The Second Half

Invisible

My generation is becoming invisible. Our culture has begun looking past us… whispering, “isn’t it time for you to retire?” Weary of our shadow GenX embraces the passing of the boomers only to find that now it is the generation behind them, the millennials,  that is new pig passing through the snake.

All innovation is looking backward to that younger generation. We continue to miss new opportunities because having too much experience is a negative.

In no context is this more evident than in the church. 15 years ago when I would visit a church for the first time pastors would leap pews to make their way to me before we exited the service. A family with 3 school aged children was gold. Finding that we were mature, stable, and experienced leaders meant we were answered prayer.

Visiting churches these days pastors are still leaping pews. But it is to get to the couple or family behind me. But of course I am invisible.  There are exceptions. Not all church communities are so blind. But as rule we remain invisible.

We are exhorted to mentor that younger group and give what we have away. But the truth is there is a lot of us. It’s unrealistic to think that a full time mentoring posture is best use of everyone’s time. I haven’t noticed mentoring to be a full time job anyway.

Pastors in my generation are retiring from ministry in droves. It’s understandable as they been standing the gap for the past 40 years. Denominations are investing everything they have in the younger demographic… again those poor GenX ers still not in the sweetspot.

So what does the Western Church increasingly look like? Boomers are invisible and fading away . Many are just stopping the church thing altogether… not sure all the reasons why but I observe a growing disaffection. But they are not missed… who is left to miss them? Their contemporaries are retiring from ministry. (Many are becoming Pastor Coaches…. eventually that job market will be overwhelmed).

Boomers who remain in church often observe their church demographic aging. These churches were the happening thing 20, 30, even 40 years ago but now they are not and the population still remembers how it use to be. When I visit these churches I am usually the youngest….

Boomers who break away to join the next church with momentum, the church that is growing…. like the old days…. find themselves marginalized. My friend B. is one of those guys. He joined a great church, making a difference in his community. It’s a vibrant startup. But they have no substantive role or place for him. B. has planted churches. B. has pastored flocks. But he is not included or valued for the skill he still possesses.  He does notice how glad the staff is when he comes early to set up chairs and when he stays late to tear things down.

Do not mistake my tone. I understand much of what I observe is a normal even expected consequence but it has created an unnecessary gap. Who will reach my generation for Christ? What church can I bring them too? Who will care? Remember there is still an awful lot of boomers in this world that remain to be reached for Jesus… I have not forgotten. And while my contemporaries are leaving full time ministry, my ministry focus is energizing as I embrace a second half unburden by a secular occupation.

As they say it’s Deja Vu all over again. When the boomer wave of the Jesus movement crashed into the church of that day only a few churches embraced us. You know that Hippie, Non-conformist thing pushed us to the margins. I was literally asked not to comeback in some cases. We did not fit. So we built our own churches with 2o somethings and pastors under 30.

We are not fitting again! But I wonder how many of us have the energy to shape our second half? The problem is we have already begun the last stage of life. And time is increasingly shortened in my generation’s ability to respond to Christ. I am attending more funerals every year.

My exhortation to my generation is to shift to a forward glance. Counter the trend of looking backward to those behind us and look forward to our generation and to what remains of our parents generation. We are the only ones that can.

 

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6 thoughts on “Invisible

  1. I agree with a large part of the authors remarks. Im a highly experienced musician who has felt passed over and moved aside for younger counterparts. The problem is they dont for the most part really know much about the history and theory of music. And we all wonder why their churches arent growing? Their worship teams are not musical. I have walked out of many a service. It was terrible.

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  2. I was asked what can a church community do to be more welcoming.

    I probably have more questions and observations than answers… but I think like all things it begins with vision with an expected outcome in mind.

    It some ways it seems a classic case of a full dance card. Whether as individuals or groups we have only so many partners we can engage in any context.

    What I am hoping for more than a welcoming church experience is a mission to engage in our context.

    What I am hoping for at a minimum is that all church communities would understand the need to reach my generation is even more pressing than when in our 20’s because time is short. I want the church community to value that story. I want my peers to not stop or grow weary of that same mission.

    If I was in my 20’s and arrived at a church with a half dozen of my peers for the first time… It would be exciting. “Wow, this is exactly what we need. Just think how many other 20 somethings they can reach.”

    The fact remains that no one is better equipped to reach my generation as we journey the next 30 years of our arc.

    I love mentoring…. I love helping in any context… but it pales in my enthusiasm to reach my peers. After all that was how I began my journey.

    My appeal to the church community is keep this mission in view. Recognize my mission remains. Empower and enable it.

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  3. When my children still living at home I became friends with a fabulous women in her late 80’s. She told me no one cared about what she knew because they dismissed her by not allowing her to contribute. She said she still had so much to share. I let her share with me.

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  4. Good read – right on the money.

    I’m 49 and a pretty good musician, a better worship leader and I think an even better preacher/teacher than either. But I feel passed over. Aged out. Already. It’s demoralizing and infuriating at the same time. 20 years in the field is being used against me, not for me. I would have thought 20 years of post divinity school experience (28-48) would count for something and all its seems to mean is that I’m not 30.

    I’m pretty disillusioned with the organized church – it’s a thinly veiled clone for Apple, Oracle and IBM. Powerful pastors making it almost entirely about them – and no one seems to mind.

    I don’t fit in the church. And it’s not a pleasant experience because I don’t know what the alternative is.

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