Been Thinking About: Age Segregation & The Church

A friend stopped by to visit me and to meet Little Bean recently. This friend is significantly older than I am, though I don’t know her exact age because I am polite and don’t ask such questions. Also, I am a terrible judge of age.

I do know, however, that she is a great-grandmother.

As she snuggled with the baby–just before Little Bean began wailing–my friend said something that got me thinking:

“I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve held a baby.”

And then she said it had probably been since her last great-grandchild was born, and he was four years old.

Four years.

Though my friend’s extended family doesn’t live close by, she is quite active in her church and our small-town community.

What I mean is, she’s no hermit. She’s got friends. She is a lovely person.

And she hasn’t held a baby in years.

I realize this is not a huge deal, but I think it points to a larger problem in our communities–the way we segregate ourselves by age. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes not.

We get annoyed at the elderly drivers (or grocery store shoppers!) who get in our way instead of reaching out, extending a hand (and patience), and considering both the difficulties of aging and the wisdom that lived experience brings. We get peeved at teenagers we pass on the streets with their pants pulled down, their earphones in, and their phones buzzing every few seconds with text messages instead of envying their passion for life and acknowledging the very real struggles that youth have.

We’d much rather stay in our own little world.

And, of course, the church is not immune to this.

Sunday school classes are just one example. We assume young married people want to only chat with young married people; new moms with new moms; empty-nesters with empty-nesters; senior adult men with senior adult men; and older women with older women. (Yes, age and gender segregation at various ages, too, is a problem.)

Not that there isn’t something to be gained by a community going through similar difficulties (that’s often what I hear about the whole new-moms-with-new-moms thing), but there is definitely something lost when we are unable to call folks of other ages friends. We lose that body-of-Christ image from Paul, for one thing, and we lose a part of ourselves, too. We don’t know how to be young at heart. We don’t know how to age gracefully (or realistically). We don’t know how to just be real and honest with one another about the difficulties of being human in this world.

So what I’m wondering is this–

Do you have friends of all ages? 
If not, why not?
If yes, how have they enriched your life?

I mean good friends, by the way.

I mean stop-by-the-house-and-snuggle-with-my-baby kind of friends.

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2 comments on “Been Thinking About: Age Segregation & The Church

  1. stephen says:

    I very much agree with your observation and the age segregation bothers me. It annoys me that we put the middle school and high school students in a room down the hall instead of in the service with the rest of the congregation. I know, I know, it’s so they can be ministered to in the way they need to. But when/how will they learn to be a part of the body?

    Our church has venues that are separated based on the type of worship music preferred, which ends up being the old folks in one room, the young folks in another, some here and others there…

    How can we be a body if we are not together?

    • elizabeth says:

      Yeah, I even wonder about removing small children from worship. Maybe I’m cynical, but I feel like the motivation is so we adults aren’t distracted, rather than for the children’s spiritual nourishment anyway.

      Thanks for commenting!

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