KXXV (ABC) Waco recently ran the following story: “Cottage Grove, Minn. – A struggling Minnesota church is asking its older parishioners to leave in hopes of making it more attractive to young families.
Grove United Methodist Church in the St. Paul suburb of Cottage Grove is closing in June, with plans to relaunch in November. The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship elsewhere, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The church is asking that they stay away for two years, then consult the pastor about reapplying.
‘I pray for this church, getting through this age discrimination thing,’ William Gackstetter said at church on a recent Sunday as the gray-haired heads around him nodded in agreement.
But church officials said the congregation needs a reset and the best way is to appeal to young people…
According to reports, the church is struggling with finances and membership. The church switched to lay ministry 7 years ago due to membership.
This means that the sermons are done by church members weekly.
They have a weekly attendance of 25.” (Struggling Minnesota Church Asks Older Members to go Away, January 22, 2020, KXXV.com).
The A.P. originally ran this story on January 20. However, they have now issued this correction. “The Associated Press, relying on information from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, erroneously reported that the church was asking older congregants to leave in hopes of becoming more attractive to younger families. The church, which also has a campus in nearby Woodbury, has asked current members to wait 15 to 18 months after the Cottage Grove campus re-launches before returning to worship there, but it didn’t single out older members in that request” (Associated Press Correction: Struggling Church Story, KTTC.com).
They are asking all to leave. Most of whom are older members. The aim is to attract younger families.
“While older members will not be physically barred from attending, the expectation is that they will not. ‘We are asking them to let this happen’ (Lead Pastor) Wetterstrom said. ‘For this to be truly new, we can’t have the core group of 30 people’” (Minn. church says it never asked older members to leave, by Ed Payne, January 23, 2020, fox19.com).
Here are my thoughts:
- If young families will not worship with older members, the problem is with them, not the older members. The church should be for all ages. The young evangelist, Timothy was taught to treat church members as family. The older men and women were to be treated as fathers and mothers; and the younger men and women were to be treated as brothers and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1-2). The young evangelist, Titus was to speak to older men and women, and younger men and women (Titus 2:1-8). Youth should not be despised (1 Timothy 4:12, cf. 1 Corinthians 16:10-11; Titus 2:15), but neither should those who are older.
- It can actually be an enriching experience to have Christian interaction with those of other ages. The older members may have a great deal of wisdom and experience to share. Older women are to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-4). The younger members may have energy and physical abilities that the older members may no longer possess. All are needed and should be able to work together and compliment one another in doing the work of the church, to the glory of God.
- The church should welcome those from different demographic backgrounds. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; cf. Colossians 3:11).
- Man, many times, tries to shape the church to his own liking. Some want only those of a certain race to attend. Some want only those of a certain socio-economic standing to attend. Some want only country people to attend. While others want only city people to attend. Some cease to evangelize after the church reaches a certain number, because they are only comfortable in a church of a certain size. For some, personal preference is king. The question is: What does Jesus want? It is, after all, His church. He is king. It is not about what we may selfishly want. It is about service. May we get busy serving God, and serving one another.
- The attraction of youth and numbers is not the most important thing. It is more important to honor Him, by doing things according to His revealed will. Their reset may, or may not, work numerically. However, it is not according to His revealed will. If a church stays small, or even dies out serving Him, it is sad. However, it does not need to be viewed as defeat for the faithful. Paul said, “For what is our hope, or joy or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Let us, in this life, continue to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The aim should be, “Whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).