/Wednesday, November 4, 2020
There is a scene in the animated Disney version of Aladdin where Jafar hypnotizes the king and puts himself forward as the only acceptable candidate to marry Princess Jasmine. Despite being hypnotized, the very thought of Jafar marrying his daughter snaps the king out of his trance momentarily, and he raises an objection: “But you’re so old!”
That might be well and true for that particular situation, but the idea that old people can’t participate fully in society, let alone the church, is all too prevalent.
Especially when it comes to missions.
Ageism in the Church
Many churches of various denominations have sent out short-term mission teams all across the planet, doing a variety of different projects and engaging in all sorts of ministries. That’s great. I’ve been a pastor for almost 21 years and a lay leader for 13 years before that - of those combined years, almost half were spent working with youth.
For years I believed that short term missions were the domain of youth groups, or men’s groups. Without realizing it, I was engaging in a form of prejudice: ageism.
Ageism is the belief that there are people in society with more or less value than other people based on their physical age.
- Sometimes older people diminish younger people with comments like “When I was a kid…”. What follows is an example that the older generation is superior to today’s youth.
- Sometimes younger people diminish the value of older people with comments like, “They are too old to understand.”
Technology and social media are the most common places to discover examples of ageism in society.
In churches the battle lines are drawn around music and missions.
As a pastor of a predominantly senior congregation, I have witnessed and experienced ageism.
I have wondered about the appropriate response to comments that undermine the unity of the church.
I have vexed over the growing divide between the young and the old. How can we become one church when the seniors are doing their thing, and the youth and young adults are doing their thing, and the middle-aged people are doing nothing…?
And then a possible solution was providentially provided: intergenerational ministry.
Intergenerational ministry is an approach to ministry that promotes the integration of all generations in all facets of church life. For example, the children stay in the church service with their parents, teenage girls come to the women’s bible study with their mothers, boys go to the men’s breakfast with their dads, everyone is welcome at the church’s Christmas banquet, and when we send out a short-term mission team, we send a team of both genders and various generations.
Our Church’s Story
In the summer of 2019, our church sent a group of 11 people on a short-term mission trip to Brazil. The group consisted of 6 males and 5 females ranging in age from 15 to 80.
One of the most interesting results of the project was the relationships forged between generations that would not have come about any other way.
People were forced to live and work together, The younger people discovered the deep resource an older mentor can be, and the older people had their biases of younger people shattered as well.
Jafar was definitely too old for Jasmine, but healthy people in their 70’s and 80’s can be an invaluable resource on your short-term mission team.
And the benefit to your church may be incalculable.
Our guest blogger today is Pastor Norm Bleick. Pastor Norm is the Senior Pastor at Hillview Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta. The mission of their church is to be a Living Church, a Loving Church, a Reaching Church and a Growing Church.