Nooma Grandma

In a recent conversation about church trends I was challenged by a friend’s comments. “Are we reaching the non-young ones?” My words; his thought.

Although emergent and postmodern church leaders have had measurable success in attracting unchurched twenty and thirty somethings they have largely marginalized themselves by age. He commented that having attended Mars Hill there were a limited number of middle aged or elderly. We both agreed that a visual poll conducted on a one time visit is hardly scientific but, I think there might be something to this. Have modern church leaders appealed only to younger minds and limited their scope of ministry?
Last month the influentially famous Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church made a change. (My grandmother used to attend when Dr. Kennedy was there) Rather than separating its members by worship preferences (traditional and contemporary) they blended their service to facilitate community. The styles of both the old and the young were compromised for the sake of coming together.

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian said in a recent blog article, “Following the lead of the advertising world, many churches and worship services target specific age groups to the exclusion of others. They forget that, according to the Bible, the church is an all-age community, and instead they organize themselves around distinctives dividing the generations…”

Amidst my questions of the modern swings of postmodernism I ask myself, why not the old ones? Have we left them behind? I further wonder if there is a difference between saying, “I have a passion to reach this generation” and “I have a passion to reach this particular race.” Though the later would be offensive the former is applauded. The boundary crossing church has become a thing of popularity but is the boundary of age too unfashionable to cross?

Would nooma be as cool with grandma?

Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated…


  1. Just wanted to say that this article is being published a few months after I wrote it. The time frame may be a little off.

  2. Interesting post. I never thought about the emergent church leaving out the older generation. That is an interesting thought.

  3. This article makes a lot of sense. Being a college student I have overheard complaints about churches being filled only with old people. In a healthy church body it would only make sense to have somewhat of a balance in age groups. Older people have a lot of life experience and wisdom to offer to younger people and younger people can challenge the thinking of older people who tend to be set in their ways, whether right or wrong. New perspectives are often enlightening and if nothing else, at least make you think about why you believe or act the way you do.
    Is it wrong for a church to specifically target a certain age group? I don’t have a yes or no answer for this but I certainly do not think it is the wisest action to take if you are trying to create a healthy church body. Certain people no doubt have gifts for relating to certain age groups. I think these people need to use their gifts within the church to “attract” people of that age group. If each person uses their gift appropriately, I would think that you could create an atmostphere that would be appealing to all age groups.

  4. Good thoughts here. We must remember that we are not out to reach just one certain crowd. Jesus said, “Whosoever will may come.” Now, is it wrong to reach out to a certain group? No, but I think that we need to be trying to reach all that we come in contact with.

    Look at the early churches that are found in the book of Acts. Those churches were so diverse. Not only were they full of young and old people, but they were filled with people that were from multiple ways of life and people groups. I think that when we try to emulate that type of church, then our efforts will be pleasing to Christ.

  5. I am a member at Mars Hill Olympia, and I attended the Ballard campus for about a year before moving to the Oly campus. If one were to come to Olympia, they would not see the same culture as they do at the Ballard campus or the University District campus. IF one goes to the Ballard campus, they see the culture of that city. Pastor Mark also emphatically says that he is not part of the emergent movement. He broke away from the emergent movement when they starting doing things that were doctrinally opposed to his beliefs. I would encourage anyone to look up the sermon that he discussed this. I can post a link if anyone needs it. I think a lot of what you said, Ben, is definitely something to ponder. Mars Hill is doing a great job of reaching the lost, but I also agree it’s not for everyone. Just a few months ago, we had one of my ESL students come to Christ and get Baptist at Mars Hill. She is 52 and from Iran. I can only speak from experience from going to Mars Hill for over two years, but we as a church push community and value coming together with children and older people. That is one reason why we don’t do “youth group”, but rather, we encourage youth to join community groups with a variety of different ages.
    I think it’s great what Coral Ridge did in their services. Community is one of the best ways to foster growth in our churches. Thanks for the post!

  6. Kristin,

    Thank you so much for your post. It is great to get a member of the Mars Hill community’s perspective.

    Just wanted to defend the post. I am not connecting Mars Hill to the Emergent Movement. I did say postmodern as well and it is probably unfair to lump them all together. I guess where I do see there similarities is STYLE.

    As far as style I am curious how many hymns are played from a piano and sung in corporate worship at your church. What about a choir? I suspect that much of the music in your service is concert style whether slow or faced paced.

    A piano is not necessary for worship neither is a choir but I have found that much of the older generation (and I would think people far above the age of 52 would fall into this category) prefers this STYLE.

    Pastor Mark would probably not feel this way but, there would be postmodern leaders that would scoff at having a traditional style of worship and exclude older people for this reason. I was invited to be in the leadership of a church where one of the leaders said, something to the effect of: “I hate hymns and they won’t be at this church.” It is this attitude that I am saying we should re-asses.

    Mars HIll is really not the best example. The breath of the community you share at your fellowship, Kristin, is unique and I am thankful for it.

    My point is that if you attend the vast majority of these churches the ratio is far from being a reflection of their communities age demographic. Your thoughts on this are welcomed and once again thank you for setting me straight.

    • Ben,

      Thanks for responding. I wasn’t trying to “set you straight”… haha! I think you had very valid points in your post.
      Regarding our style of worship, there are bands that rotate Sundays. That band is responsible for the “style” that they bring. One of the bands has a keyboard and my husband’s band use to, but has since changed their “style.” We play hymns almost every Sunday. The songs are very singable. To be honest, the music was the one thing that I really had to evaluate and discern what I REALLY believed about how one worship’s God. Again, every campus is different, and every band within that campus is different. As a PCC graduate, I NEVER thought I would be in a church like Mars Hill, but God definitely directed me there. I love it! Thank you for all you are doing for the kingdom. I really appreciate your blog and specifically you and your wife’s ministry!

  7. Ben, Just wanted to say that I love traditional services and they are my preference. I can enjoy and appreciate other kinds of services but would not want to be in them every Sunday. My age is 55. The church is supposed to be made up of all different ages as well as races and nationalities. The Holy Spirit is what blends us all harmoniously together as we worship God.

  8. That is a thought provoking article Ben. I have wondered the same thing myself. The increasing divide among age groups in the church today is a terrible problem. Much is lost when a church is void of its youth and its aged. I don’t believe holding separate services is the answer because it only facilitates division. Segregating the Lord’s house makes it imposable to fulfill certain biblical practices such as is found in 1Timothy 5 & Titus 2.

    I guess the biggest concern for me is if the church uses the same marketing tools, trends and ploys to target the youth, as the secular world does, we will get the same results. Those results are fads and fads only last until the new wears off. This generation gets bored and frustrated easily. I am afraid if we rely on secular approaches to attract people to Christ then we are on the unfavorable side of 1Coriinthians 2:4 – “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom,…”

    I am 36 and I like a traditional church service. I understand some may find that boring, but when did church become entertainment focused? Many of the approaches to attract the lost into church is worldly. I worry that the world is influencing the church instead of the church influencing the world. For example, I cannot get on bored with Rock music in the Lord’s house. Adding Christian lyrics to worldly musical accompaniment does not make it holy and acceptable. I spent 10 years of my life playing in Heavy Metal/Rock bands and a lot of what is accepted as “praise & worship” music is similar to what I use to play in clubs and bar rooms. There is a local church in my area that has a Friday night contemporary service aimed at the youth. When I went, I didn’t know if I walk into a church or a rock concert, complete with a techno light show and fog machines. I’m not against having a new song in church, but at what point do we draw the line? I fear respect and holy reverence for God’s house is being lost.

    The local church is to honor Christ and for the feeding, growth and edification of believers unto a mature faith. Church It not a place to entertain the lost and searching by means they can be comfortable with.

    Perhaps rally’s and such alike are good to facilitate an interest in Christ and the church that may have not been sparked otherwise. Then the youth minister can emphasize the importance of joining the elder saints. At the same time the senior pastor can be encouraging the elder saints to be patient and nurturing to the babes in the faith.

    A clear answer to resolve the age segregated church I do not have. However, this much I know; a house divided cannot stand.

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