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Do we really need young people in church?

2013 July 16
by Gordon Reid

The cry is always going up all over the Church: “We have so few young people in the congregation. We are going to die”

My (helpful as usual) reply has always been “What a load of male-cow droppings”.

I hasten to say that this is not at present true of St Clement’s, Philadelphia: we have a good percentage of young(ish) people in the congregation. But even if it were true, I would still say the same. To put it at its most extreme, if your congregation consists of only 60 or 70 year olds, why should you worry? They have a lot of experience and wisdom in them, and the delightful thing is – there are a lot more 60 and 70 year olds coming along! So it takes a really depressive outlook to think that your congregation will get any smaller. In fact, if you get out there and evangelise the  40 and 50 year olds, your congregation might grow considerably, even though it will still  be made up mainly of 60 and 70 year olds.

But that is an extreme example, aimed to make you laugh. For most congregations the reality is that there are people of nearly every age group in them, and that is how it should usually be. It is a healthy and happy group that has children, teenagers, young adults and  the older generations all mixed in. There is so much that they can learn from each other and teach each other. But if one age-group predominates, take Our Lady’s advice and let it be. Use the gifts of all, and tell them all to bring in some friends, and make sure that what  you offer in the way of Word and Sacrament helps them to grow closer to Jesus Christ. He is the Centre of our Faith, and if they are growing closer to  Him, they will inevitably be growing closer to one another.

Then  you may well be surprised by how well the 90 year old gets on with the 18 year old.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Gary (NJ) permalink
    July 27, 2013

    I was raised RC and left the Church for a variety of reasons in the early 1970s. I was ‘spiritual but not religious’ for 30+ years until I ended up joining TEC in 2009 (Anglo-Catholic parish). I now attend almost every Sunday. Our materialist culture with its endless distractions often leaves little interest for the Great Mystery in many, but of course not all, younger people; especially if they have no exposure to it at home. Perhaps those who are religiously inclined find their way back to religion, or come to it for the first time, because we/they have achieved a degree of peace and wisdom that the young often don’t have. Plus, as we know, the spiritual hunger that our society is so filled with, can never be filled with endless technology, entertainment and having the latest gadgets. I think the younger generations may start returning to Church as they mature, just as I did. As the Bible so often says, “Don’t be afraid!”

  2. Stacey Carmody permalink
    July 19, 2017

    I agree with you that it is best to have a mixed age group. I’m of 2 minds when it comes to the aging group. On one hand, they are wonderful historians. I have learned a lot from the senior members , I love to hear interesting stories about how church was decades ago, especially since I did not come into the Church until 2006 (like Gary I joined TEC after being “not religious”). I embrace the past, it’s part of who we are, but we also can’t get stuck in the past, and this is route older members go all too often. Too much of “we have always done it this way”, or ” this church USED to be….” being said. Also, we (all ages) tend to be creatures of habit. An exercise was done at my church that paired people from entirely different generations together for Coffee Hour for 2 Sundays. The point was to share our experiences and get to know people outside our age ranges. While a great idea, it didn’t hold. The following Sundays had people back to their old ways, socializing with whom they already know, with the same 3 or 4 people they have sat next to for the past 10-20, etc years instead of taking the time to get to know others. But like you said “There is so much that they can learn from each other and teach each other”. How do we implement that?

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