"When I first entered the meeting room, I was startled to realize that almost everyone present seemed to be a twenty- or thirty-something person ...And yet, do we know our audience(s)?
"These men and women were charged (and presumably gifted) with designing and leading worship for their congregations. That meant they selected songs and Scriptures, said prayers, and in general, attempted to escort people into the presence of God through acts of reverence. They had better know their audience, I thought: who the people were, how they felt, what their hopes and dreams were, and where they sensed or feared their lives were headed."
MacDonald shared with the worship leaders about the small group he and his wife attend, made up mostly of people their own age. The group meets once a month simply to share a meal and tell stories about what is going on. By the time they are done, everybody has a basic sense of the important issues in each other person's life. And one topic that never fails to come up one way or another is death.
"I could almost sense their incredulity. When you are in your twenties and thirties, you rarely talk about death (at least not regularly, in a small group) unless it has been pressed into life through sudden tragedy.... "Similarly, for a substantial number of people in our churches, says MacDonald, death is one of the most important and frequently considered subjects. The young people he was teaching, on the other hand, seldom think about death. They are concerned about careers, willpower, and relationships, he said - subjects that have little interest for him personally.
"How are you going to usher people into the presence of God if you don't know the questions that form the big pictures in the hearts of the various generations you are leading? I suspect that there are different questions for every age in life, perhaps every decade. Knowing them helps us to deal with people sensitively, and it gives us a better understanding of how to build a larger view of our own lives. ... You won't be asking the same questions ten years from now that you are asking today."Twenties
People in their twenties are asking questions like these:
What kind of person am I becoming? What will I do with my life? What is it I really want? Where can I find people who will welcome me as I am? Can I love, and am I lovable?
"Twenty-somethings are becoming aware that they can no longer get away with irresponsible or unsocial behavior. Life patterns, habits, and personality quirks need adjustment if one is to get along. So the question, what parts of me and my life need correction? arises.Thirties
As people move into their thirties, the questions may shift:
"Since there is usually an expansion of responsibility and no expansion of time, thirty-somethings find themselves asking the question, How do I prioritize the demands being made on my life?Loneliness can start to be a significant issue, especially for men. Gone are the opportunities to simply hang out with one's friends for hours on end.
"Old friends have drifted away; often, new acquaintances simply do not have the time to build the satisfying relationships that were part of the younger years.Forties
"The spiritual questions no longer center on the ideals of youth but on the realities of a life that is tough and unforgiving.
"Thirty-somethings find themselves asking, why am I not a better person?"
For many, entering their forties means entering dangerous, uncharted waters:
"The complexities of life further accelerate, and - this is worrisome - we begin to recognize that we can no longer fob off our flaws and failures as youthfulness and inexperience."Many at this age feel trapped, and may fight disappointment in themselves and the ways their lives have turned out. This is a good time in one's life to take a sabbatical, stripping down one's lives to the bare bones and evaluating one's life journey, perhaps plotting a new course for the second half.
Similarly, those in their fifties, sixties, and seventies see different questions rise to the surface:
Why is time moving so fast? How do I deal with my failures and successes? Who are these young people who want to replace me? What do I do with my doubts and fears? Will we have enough money if problems come?
When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me? Why do I feel ignored by a large part of the young population? Do I have enough time to do all the things I've dreamed about? Who will be around me when I die? Which one of us will go first? Are the things I've always believed in capable of taking me to the end? What have I done that will outlive me?
Seventies and Eighties
Does anyone realize or even care who I once was? Is my story important to anyone? How much of my life can I still control? Is there anything I can still contribute?
"I was struck with how little we know about each other across the generations. And how important it is to understand what questions form the larger pictures of another's life. This is the pathway to resilience: knowing what's up ahead, what we are likely to face, where the possibilities and obstacles lie."What do you think, do these questions resonate with you? He has more to say about each age than I have shared here. I found this a helpful chapter. Certainly I've seen these threads in my own life, and it's good to look ahead.
What he doesn't really address is how then one can effectively lead a mixed-generation worship service, small group, or congregation. I seldom find myself in groups that only include people who are in my own "decade." Nor, I think, would I want to be.
(Quotations from Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life, pp. 47-58)