Age Discrimination in the Church

We are surrounded by many forms of prejudice and discrimination in church and society.  One that I see first hand is age discrimination in local churches.  This applies to both younger people and older people.  Let’s start with the younger people:

Prejudices Against Kids in the Church:

1. Even though 50% of people who profess faith in Christ do so by age 12 (George Barna research), many local churches allocate only a tiny portion of their resources towards reaching and building people 12 and younger.

2. Though this is my anecdotal experience, I doubt it is uncommon: I have personally heard core church members refer to the Children’s Ministry of the church as “childcare”.  I understand that they don’t mean any wrong in saying that.  But I believe it reveals the underlying view towards kids in the church: that they just need to be babysat while the adults sing songs and listen to sermons.

Prejudice Against the “Older and Wiser” in the Church:

Take a group of 10 people in the church over the age of 60.  That’s a minimum of 600 years of life experience, collective knowledge, and a great deal of spiritual insight just in that group of 10.  How often does a local church seek out the spiritual wisdom and insight of the “senior citizens” groups of the church?  In my opinion, there is a lot left to be tapped in those members of our congregations.  Younger people see them as “retired”, “expired”, or “old-fashioned.”  What if we instead viewed them as elders to whom we can go to for learning, growing, and mentoring?

What do you think?  Do you observe these same types of discrimination in your church?  What are some ways to work against age discrimination?

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Jesse

Jesse Joyner travels nationwide performing a comedy juggling act for family and kids events. He is also working towards his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Kezzie.

9 thoughts on “Age Discrimination in the Church”

  1. I agree that childcare is often a sales pitch perk rather than a focused emphasis on spiritual formation of children.

    I would add another age-excluded group: unmarried young adults without kids (UYAWK), specifically, that weird transitory time between 23 and 33 when many people are still figuring out their gifts and careers and don’t have the houses, long term jobs, and families that keep them in any one place.

    In my opinion, the church often does not know what unmarried young adults without kids can offer, nor how the church can minster to them. We the church end up waiting until they get married (offer them marriage counseling!) and have kids (offer them childcare and strong youth programs!) before having expectations that they will be involved and committed church members.

    Maybe what we need is more emphasis of **discipleship** and **spiritual formation** …regardless of generation or life stage…

    That emphasis might reduce age discrimination on the groups you mention as well.

    1. Amen to that. Many churches have a “college ministry” and a “family ministry” and fail to discover the valuable group you are describing. Perhaps the less we compartmentalize groups in the church, the better?

  2. Found you via Weekend Wander on FTLOB :)Religion is always a trckiy subject mainly because people put far too much weight on it. I am not religious and I don’t feel lost. I feel happy, I get on with life. I hope you find your ideal place xxTweet me! @othersideofcool

    1. Priscilla,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not religious either. Religion is humanity’s attempt to earn heaven or God’s favor. Jesus Christ himself wasn’t religious. In fact, he despised it and preached heavily against it (Luke 11:42-53; Matthew 6:1-8). Jesus came as the paradoxical perfect human – the only way to make a connection between a holy God and unholy humans. When I was in college, I finally turned from religion and found grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That has brought me indescribable joy, peace, and relief to my soul. Christianity isn’t about being good or happy. Its about bringing glory to God. That is where we find true joy, IMHO.

  3. We were a member of a church, first Baptist Church of Gulfport MS, that was using age discrimination to deny my wife and other choir members to participate in worship services because they did not look “youthful” enough for the pastor. Is that something you might be interested in looking into? Would love for someone of a national organization against age discrimination to call that pastor and ask him about it.

  4. We were a member of a church, first Baptist Church of Gulfport MS, that was using age discrimination to deny my wife and other ladies to participate in worship services because they did not look “youthful” enough for the pastor. Is that something you might be interested in looking into? Would love for someone of a national organization against age discrimination to call that pastor and ask him about it.

    1. Malcolm, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately, age discrimination shows up in many places and on all points on the age spectrum. Have you tried expressing your thoughts and feelings to the pastor? I would start there.

  5. I cannot attend a (baptist) church nearby because of age discrimination. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that the first time I attended that it was an anomoly; not so. I went back a second time, and it happened again. The pastor wouldn’t even meet my gaze. Everyone was in groups, and no one would let me in. I finally left and walked home. I was in a severe depression afterward without even knowing it. No one prepared me for this. I served in the church (elsewhere) for many years and even ministered to seniors, but I cannot ever get anyone to minister back to me. It’s okay if I am working or ministering out to others, and no one seems to mind that, but my turn to be included or ministered to never comes. I’m exhausted and burnt out. All I want is a church that I can attend and be included. I’m tired.

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