This past week on vacation, I took the opportunity to visit two different churches. I found these two churches to be an interesting contrast.
One church was predominantly young. There were only a few hoary heads in the place, from what I could tell. I felt like an old guy. The other church seemed like at least half, if not more, of the people in attendance were older than me. To be fair, the latter church was a Sunday PM service, so I am not sure what effect that might have had, though I doubt that there is enough young people in the AM service to offset this factor.
So I wonder why this difference.
I think there is some merit to the idea that churches tend to reflect their leadership. One pastor is 30ish, and the other is probably close to 60. It is probably unlikely that the older generation will flock to hear a younger man preach every week. At the same time, the younger generation probably feels a bit disconnected to an older man. Of course, these are generalities. But I know as a pastor, I definitely feel these relational issues.
Let me tell you about these two churches.
Comparing the churches, there was a very distinct difference in the atmosphere of the service. One church had a piano, organ, full orchestra, and a choir. The other had a piano, an organ, a strong lead voice with two backup singers, and a recorder/flute player.
One church sang gospel songs from the early 1900s (including Love Lifted Me, All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus). The other sang a mix of modern hymns, Sovereign Grace, and old hymns (including And Can It Be and Be Thou My Vision).
One church sang songs in succession, with no speaking in between; there was only an instrumental transition. The other church took breaks for some instruction (welcome people on this next verse, ladies sing the second, everyone sing acapella, etc.).
Both churches featured a sermon from an OT text. In one church, the pastor took great lengths to labor in the text (a very difficult text), pointing carefully to words, verses, and constantly referring to the overall argument of the chosen text. In the other church, the pastor gave what seemed a fairly brief and surface overview with some applications that made me uncomfortable in terms of preaching the text faithfully.
In one church, there was a quick mention of Jesus at the end of the message. In the other, there was an more extended discussion of Christ and the gospel towards unbelievers.
Now, two caveats:
1. I realize some could suggest my description is prejudiced. And that may be true. I was asked by a friend at one of the churches to critique the service, and I will send him some thoughts. But I am trying not to be critical. In fact, when he asked me what I thought, I hadn’t thought of anything to say really. He needled me to give him more.
2. Even though my description above is randomized in terms of presentation, I imagine that most of you could put the service together and get all the right pieces in the right church.
So why is one church younger and one older? What are the dynamics and factors of age in church?