Sunday, January 22, 2012
You do not belong...
Many Lutherans have jumped on this bandwagon as well. They cater to personal taste and status as if they were on Facebook. In fact, I have worshiped in Lutheran congregations with my three small children only to look around and see that we were the only family with small children among the hundreds of folks gathered there. We are severely tempted to follow this model even in smaller congregations where the numbers that would be divided up are sparse. We have been told over and over again, starting with the Church Growth Movement, that the greatest success is when people share the most commonality of backgrounds, status and traits.
As Lutherans, we, too, have bought into the idea that only women can minister to women, only young people to young people, etc... In other words, people need groups and leaders who mirror back to them their own status, preferences, and "felt needs." We do this almost without thinking when it comes to youth. We have youth groups and youth ministries and youth ministers. Even when Sunday morning is not segregated, the rest of their life together in the church is. We have child care so that adults are free to participate without also juggling parental responsibility. We are starting to have senior citizen ministries for folks who share the common defect of being old (at least as seen in a culture that idolizes youth even among the graying). We don't really think about it. It seems logical. Everyone with their own kind. Once I sat in a congregation that actually announced a schedule change that had the college singles meeting with the twenty-somethings that Sunday due to a special program! How odd?!?
My point? I am not so sure that all of this segregation is either wise or beneficial. The Church of Christ is not a mirror reflection of me (as if we needed a class or fellowship group for grumpy old men with gray beards who wear reading glasses and like to tell other people their meandering thoughts). The Church works best when this segregation is kept to a minimum. Yeah, I can see some of the wisdom in Sunday classes aimed at folks with the same reading and comprehension levels and so you are probably going to have to keep that... but... the rest of it? Is it wise for us to expect or label people by age or marital status or other criteria and then presume that their wants, needs, and interests are the same because of those criteria? Are we shortchanging worship and the rest of the life of the church by presuming that we should all be with our own kind instead of being together in the nave, classroom, and fellowship hall?
I have tried some "intergenerational" stuff and found it as palatable as pablum. The surprise is that starting about a dozen years ago I began having some high school age youth in my "adult" study because they got tired of talking about the typical youth subjects of sex, video games, movies, drugs, tattoos and piercings. They have stayed and they keep up just fine. What are some of your experiences and what do you think about this kind of segregation on Sunday mornings?
Once a young family told me about their visit to a small Lutheran congregation made up mostly of those over 65. They had two squirmy children who were vocal and one began to sing when nobody else was singing and the other began to cry (babies do that). They apologized profusely after the service but one older woman said to her, "Oh, don't apologize. I have been waiting years to hear the sound of a baby's cry in Church on Sunday morning -- it was wonderful. I sure hope you will be back!" Actually I can think of nothing sadder than to look around on Sunday morning and see people just like me....