Why are the elders mad?

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. -Prov 20:29 

Growing up, my parents forced me to attend the Bible Camp of my church, every Summer. (I hope you are able to sense how painful this was for me with the italicization and underlining.)

I hated being away from home and it was the longest five days of my life. I silently celebrated the year of my 16th Birthday when I was given reprieve due to the “importance” of my football camp at Wofford University.

I remember many experiences at the camp, namely, that I fell in love with photography, asked a girl to braid my hair, navigated two-day long crushes, and fought to memorize my memory verses, only to be helped along by Mrs. Butler.

This camp epitomized everything about our church that my mother loved. It was sure to be life-changing for me, from her perspective, but it was not as powerful as she may as hoped, at least during my youth.

Since my generation’s time at the camp, attendance has declined and I have secretly hoped for a revival. My aunts, Godmother, and countless cousins have been molded by this church and have attended this camp for many years, but just like all across America, many of our older traditions are being abandoned by current generations.

Why is it that values do not always translate across generations?

While at camp, I remember singing a song acapella…every year… called “This is the Day.”

“This is the Day. This is the Day that the Lord has made, that The Lord has made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”

It is a pretty simple song, but it was a song that was not a pleasure to sing. However, this song reimaged offers us an answer to our cross-generational issue.

The solution to declining churches is the adoption of a new imagination rooted in a firm foundation.

Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy wrote a song called “Glad.” (This album and the previous one is full of little gems that remind me of the songs “my ma and dem” would sing in the country.) This song starts with the same lyrics as the song I used to sing at camp, however, he changes it to only include the first lines. Here are the lyrics:

This is the day
that the Lord has made
He didn’t have to let me see it
it could have been another way
but He gave me mercy
covered me with grace
so I won’t let nothing take the smile off my face.

I am reminded of all the beauty of my home during this song but lifted to the possibilities as this melody carries me along while thinking about the old and the new simultaneously.

Anthony Brown is a child of the church and his music testifies that he has been molded by the “old church,” but takes seriously the call to reach those of his generation. We get both the classics and a new package with his music.

It is this approach that is needed so desperately in our spaces. We can no longer ignore the elders and the young people. What that leaves are middle-aged people without the strength or wisdom to lead us.

I do not believe this was the way we were intended to live together.

Let us imagine a church where children run freely, young mothers are encouraged by grandmothers and young fathers are held up by grandfathers. Let us imagine a place where the Pastoral staff has an elder of 60+ years, a Pastor of 40 years and another pastor in their 20s. What would it look like if our places of worship fully embodied a love for all people at various places in this journey called life?

What would it look like if our teachers weren’t pushed into retirement and actually appreciated? (…that will be another post for another day.)

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. -Prov 20:29

The first step to revitalization is an embracing of both young and old. Change is inevitable, but change untempered by wisdom will only result in a return to the dysfunction of the past. Simply put, we must know where we are going by knowing where we came from.

That is the responsibility of the Elder.

Question to Ponder:

What causes the divide between the generation of my time and our elders, both in school and in church?

Is it our fault? Is it the fault of the current generation?