Monday, May 12, 2014

An Open Letter to Older Adults in the Church

Dear friends with more years than me,

I hope this letter doesn't make you mad, but sometimes we must say things which are difficult to address. I write this letter to plead with you to strike the phrase "Young people today..." from your vocabulary. Now while it is possible for the rest of this phrase to be framed positively, I have yet to hear it as such.

"Young people today don't care about the church."
"Young people today are materialistic and self-centered."
"Young people today..."

With this phrase, you do not give us the benefit of the doubt and assume that some of us are different. You do not admit that "young people" are a diverse and varied group, just like middle-aged people and old people.

With this phrase, you paint every single young person with the same brush and frankly, it hurts. You overgeneralize with negative characteristics. You state your opinion as a fact, without softening your words with phrases like "it seems to me", "in my opinion", "sometimes", "some young people", or the like.

When you start a sentence with "Young people today," every young person within earshot is ready for your words to attack and condemn. Ask yourself, would you want to be singled out as a problem group and publicly condemned?

Are young people today really that bad? In the 1920s there were gangsters, flappers, speakeasies, and bootleggers. In the 1960s there were hippies, communes, free love, and casual sex. Today, there are hipsters, technology, and social media like faceboook. There has been good and bag things about every generation, but my generation is the scapegoat, my generation is publicly condemned from the pulpit.

Yes, there are not many "young people" in churches today. But the same can be said of middle-aged people, old people, and all ages in between.

Instead of condemning the "young people" and then wondering why young people don't attend your services, I encourage you to welcome them (free food is a powerful motivator for attendance). Instead of gossiping about the problems young people cause (it is gossiping), pray for them and also take a look at yourself. You may just find there to be a log in your own eye. People will live up to your expectations or down to them.

I know that there are problems and difficulties in each generation, but when we realize that each generation has its own problems, there's a possibility we can speak about people today instead of just young people.

Please don't overgeneralize.
Please don't state opinion as facts.
Please don't alienate the young people who do come to your church by condemning those who don't come.

Your sister in Christ and a young person,

Liz 'o the Niche

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