UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Reality Check

Showing our age

By David Ewart

The crisis facing our church is people, not budgets. And the people crisis is not that we are becoming fewer, but that those of us in the pews no longer look like our communities.

Of the many differences we might consider, one of the easiest to identify — and the most critical for us — is age. The United Church doesn’t keep records of participants’ ages, but the chart shows the latest Statistics Canada figures for each of the six living generations. The youngest of the baby boom generation are now 50; the oldest are entering retirement. Gen-Xers are solidly middle aged, 35 to 49. And millennials, aged 15 to 34, now have bragging rights as the largest generation ever at 27 percent of the population.

Want to know how your congregation is doing compared to Canada as a whole? On Sunday morning, ask all those under 35 to raise their hands. Counting children, they should be at least 40 percent of those present. Those over 65 should be about 10 percent.

Personally, I am glad that I have been able to grow older in good health. As my friends joke, “Given the alternative, growing older is better.” But for those of us who love our denomination, the church’s growing older is not better. We want our church to be young and vibrant.

But trying to “stay young” is an old person’s concern. My 20-something kids aren’t staying young; they are young. And although we live in the same city, we live in different realities. Homes? Cars? Kids? Careers? Marriage? All of these markers of adult stability are elusive for them. And so my kids don’t need my congregation to be more youthful. They need a whole new way of congregating. One that is flexible and mobile, and that connects using multiple platforms. One that assumes that debt, under-employment, self-employment and transience are normal. One that is also authentic, substantive and personal.

I wonder if our congregations have the courage to abandon old wine skins for the sake of the culture that is already upon us?

Rev. David Ewart is a United Church minister in Vancouver.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image