There are a number of assemblies that face challenges, one of which is due to demographics. This divide is between those over fifty and those who are younger. The issue relates to outlook, preferences, opinions and continuity. I am dealing in generalities; there are many on both sides of the timeline that are unaffected by these issues.
The issues are things such as music, church clothing, meeting times, attendance, style among others. In assemblies with predominantly older believers and elders, there are often expectations as to how things “are done”. These expectations may have a foundation based on familiarity, preference, or simply the way they think it should be.
For these older saints, who have raised their children who now have families of their own, there is little intimate contact with the younger generations.
How it used to be
The world is changing and will continue to do so at a tremendous rate. The following are some items that were standard practice forty years ago in most assemblies:
- Older saints grew up in a time where people dressed formally for many events outside of church; “church attire” was standard
- There was a commitment to attend all the meetings of the local church
- People sat still and children behaved in a certain way
- The same hymns were used year-after-year either acapella or with the same type of accompaniment; a piano or organ
- The “openings” were standard and fairly formal
- There were a prescribed number of meetings at standard times
- Sundays were special days, devoted to low activity and quiet pursuits
- Most people read from the KJV and often prayers contained similar language; God was addressed by “Thee” and “Thou”
Changes in society
Even outside of the assembly, society and culture were static for many years. People stayed at the same job, lived in the same neighborhood, dealt with the same bank, doctor, and grocery store and so on. Now the world, society, and culture are very different.
Let me insert an example from an announcement made in January 2017. The Ringling Brothers Circus is folding after 146 years. There are a number of factors, some related to animal rights and costs but the blurb also mentioned the difficulty in attracting people and holding their attention.
The length of a performance went from almost 3 hours to just over 2 hours, a 45-minute cut. The longest act, involving tigers, was twelve minutes long. Even then, they were unable to hold the attention of three and four year-old kids. For those in an older generation, it is hard to fathom that the circus is no longer an attraction and that an act with tigers cannot hold children’s attention.
Here are some things that have changed in the last 40 years
- People are mobile, they change jobs, they move to different cities or even countries
- Styles have changed; few of us dress as we did forty years ago
- There is a declining appreciation of poetry and older literature
- People travel greater distances for work, church, and other activities
Most of us have embraced these types of changes, but some struggle with changes that affect the local church. For instance:
- The fact that language is fluid and the younger generation does not talk in nor understand the language of the KJV and that many do not understand the poetry and/or meaning of many of the old hymns
- The growth of electronic devices; that more people carry their Bible on a phone or tablet and people respond to information more readily when the presentation is both verbal and visual
- That musical tastes are different and that many in the younger generation do not appreciate some of the old hymns especially ones with difficult tunes and obscure lyrics
- The issues this next generation faces are much different from previous generations in terms of the changing social landscape
- Sunday is more like the other days of the week; individuals and families engage in all types of activities
None of these is a matter of spirituality but rather is a matter of custom and preference. In assemblies that are predominantly older in age, these things might seem less problematic; but where there are younger people there needs to be an awareness that times have changed. In tomorrow’s article we will further develop the need for change…