Nurturing Elders and Others:
Putting the You, Me, We into US
By Douglas Ferguson | Photos by Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: Douglas Ferguson, a young adult within the PNW Conference is guest writing for the Rev. Paul Graves this month! Ferguson spots a light on our squabbles as a church and the impact on both older adults and young people. As we move towards a future that may involve less- or no-church, how can we work together to be the embodiment of faith that is multicultural and multigenerational, today? How can we be more relevant?

I’ve always been an old soul, and in this way the church has always fit me well. One thing I love about the UMC is the sheer diversity of theological dialogue within our denomination. While we have one Book of Discipline, our church doctrine is formed through the evolving compromise of many different perspectives. Yet now more than ever, we are a house divided – on a range of issues. However, the biggest controversy of all is how these internal debates are distracting us from our higher calling.

Our division is causing people to leave the church. So it’s time to start bridging some gaps. One age-old gap in particular is the “age-gap” itself. “Generational” divisiveness is causing countless local churches to die a slow death, and as a result the larger church body is withering. If the church of the future is no church at all, then all of our current arguments become instantly superficial. As I’ve aged, I’ve realized that I have few to no answers by myself. United as we still are, we can find real solutions through intergenerational dialogue. And while I am short on answers, I do have some questions for all of us to consider to possibly help lessen the gap between younger and older adults:

Older adults say they welcome young adults,
but when it comes to changing our church service
to be more welcoming…how willing are we?

Younger adults say they have new ideas,
but are they willing to listen and learn from
the experiences of older adults before brushing them off?

Are we truly willing to learn from each other?
Are we willing to try out others’ ideas instead dismissing them?

Are we able to listen?
Not politely hear others, but truly hear them out?
Are we willing to act on some of their suggestions?
Be they younger or older?

Are we called to have a worship service that we like,
or are we called to create a worship environment
that draws in and welcomes un-churched visitors?

Are we willing to sing songs that are new to us?
Hymns? Praise songs? Contemporary music?

Are we willing to do church together… independent of age?
Worship together? Minister together?
Form small groups together?
Evangelize together? Serve others together?

When is a young adult not a young adult?
When is an older adult an elder?

Shouldn’t we listen intently to our youth
because they are our future?
Shouldn’t we listen to the voice, wisdom,
and experience of our elders?
Shouldn’t we listen to our young adults’ ideas
and embrace their energy?

I have been involved in this conference most of my life, but I’m not a youth, young adult, older adult, or elder by PNW conference standards. Admittedly, my perspective is still on the younger side of things at this point, but at the age of 35 it really shouldn’t be. How are we, together, going to grow the church again? Perhaps we’ll get there through the process of answering some very tough questions.


A Life Worthy of the Gospel (D4758)

How do Christians think and act faithfully in a complex and often ambiguous world? What models from scripture and church history might help us to live “lives worthy of the Gospel” in the 21st century?

Join noted ethicist, Dr. Sondra Wheeler, in an exploration of a Christian way of living, how Scripture is the story that forms us and what we can learn from our various religious traditions revealed in theology of Augustine, Luther and Wesley.

Tom Ferguson of Colby UMC used this resource and said, “Our group really enjoyed the videos and were asking for more from Dr. Wheeler. It was an excellent study.”

E-mail Ellen Johanson at to reserve this resource, today!

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