Faith and the Midlife Heart

{By Lisha Epperson}

 

I’ve shared on my blog my families struggle to find a church home. Number one on my list was convenience. I won’t belabor you with the two-hour mini series that ensues….any time we try to leave the house. I won’t tell you how, even the thought of “let’s go” sets in motion some kind of evil force that works religiously to keep us from going …. anywhere. No, I won’t tell you about that. Today I’ll tell you how hard it’s been to feel like I belong…and why I can’t blame this feeling on my new church. I’ve felt this way for some years now.

 

The church isn’t speaking to my midlife heart.

 

Family centered ministries meet the needs of our children but the heart of a mid-lifer is a sacred mosaic. A labyrinthine cavern of questions and longing for engagement, mission minded service and purpose. The midlife heart is an uncaged bird, uncompromising in flight. It wants to do, to love more. It will pursue its mark. We’re fine tuning our callings and confirming our relevance. Mid lifers need the church.

 

 
for church by LousyWriter

 

I’m not alone in this. Statistics show the midlife set is watching 50 Shades of Grey and enjoying the guilty pleasure of Scandal. What they aren’t doing is attending church. Married people with school-aged children aren’t joining and if they grew up in church…they aren’t staying.

 

I keep going but I don’t see middle-aged people in church. Maybe they’re burnt out on religion or don’t have time. The routine of the weekly experience loses it’s significance when it becomes a premeditated drive by – too often church is just another “to do” on an impossibly long list of obligations. In a performance/ “winning” society, could it be we disengage when we don’t see measurable success in ourselves and others? The discouragement of the “been there, done that and it doesn’t work” syndrome is real. Twenty or more years of service can feel futile if you aren’t consistently stimulated with fresh ideas for making the business of kingdom building an attainable reality. Accepting the forever truth of sinners in the kingdom, can make the goal feel pointless.

 

These are musings of but one midlife heart. But please hear the resounding choral cry as a host of mid-lifers scream “Amen”. The church isn’t speaking to this group of Gods people.

 

Churches have to do a better job of including the specific needs of mid-lifers when establishing the foundation for a ministry. Mid-lifers shouldn’t consistently find themselves in the margins, relegated to the pew in the corner with the obstructed view. They can’t see and won’t be seen. They’ll leave.

 

Because…the internet. The internet makes it too easy for us to stream a service and feel like we’ve gotten our spiritual juice for the week. That’s cool and crazy efficient. But if we aren’t the family devotions type, our children aren’t getting the word. We won’t have a familial experience of faith IN community if we don’t gather together as the people of God. We may pray and parent our children under a sovereign God…but is that enough?

 

And we want to be there. Well beyond duty, we want to want to be there. We need God to figure out this season of life but we can’t just be there for the kids. We need the church – not a building but the support and resources of a family of believers.

 

This isn’t about a crisis of faith it’s a crisis of community.

 

Age is not a disqualifier. It never was. Not in Christ. Not when you’re a believer.

 

Faith is ageless. We don’t retire from our relationship from God. We believe from moment to moment…season to season. I want a church that supports that. Talk to me about a word…that doesn’t change. A truth that transforms and a hope that breathes life. And do that while engaging every generation.

 

We need all-inclusive, inter-generational ministries. We need pastoral care and spiritual direction. We need meaningful service opportunities and practical counsel as we care for elderly parents. We need prayer as we work to honor shifts in relationships and tackle the all-consuming work of midlife parenting. We need information about career transition, preventive health care and financial planning. We need a safe place to ask questions. The church should be the hub for every aspect of life. Disciple this set of believers by speaking the word through the lens of a mid-lifer. At least occasionally.

 

If you’re a mid-lifer struggling to find your place in church…keep going. Your presence is important.  Raise your hand, lift your voice – stay involved. The body of Christ needs you.

 

God orchestrates mystical connections and conditions to fulfill His purpose. It’s all on purpose.  I keep telling myself I’m part of that – even when I don’t feel it.

 

So are you.

 

 

I hope this post serves as a conversation starter. Are you a mid-lifer in church? Does church attendance still feel relevant to you? Are you checking it off the list … just because? If you’re getting it in and it’s feeling good I’d love to hear about it. 

 

Photo credit: family walking on cobbled path, by Lousy Writer

 

_________________________________________________

 

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allumeheadshotsLisha Epperson is a hopeful romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. A happy wife and now mother of 5, she shares a warrior song about her 14 year walk through infertility and the semi-sweet miracle of adoption. Lisha works out a life of faith with fear, trembling, and a fair measure of grace in New York City. Follow her blog at http://www.lishaepperson.com, and here for Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

_________________________________________________

 

We’re quietly cutting through the competition to bring you worship and praise along with conversations about church and community. You’re invited to the discussion about what church and the Body of Christ means to you.

Subscribe to join the community of faith builders

Advertisements

13 Comments on “Faith and the Midlife Heart

  1. Pingback: Faith and the Midlife Heart { a guest post for Outside The City Gate }

  2. Lisha…so much to “Amen” here. I haven’t considered myself a mid-lifer..but I guess I am! Or I’m close enough, anyway. 😉 And this is truth, “This isn’t about a crisis of faith it’s a crisis of community.” I’m so glad to say my church is recognizing this and taking real steps to build our community. We had a “family” meeting about this just last week and there are steps in place with a new minister who is specifically heralding this cause. You make so many correct and great points. And I’m so glad you are spurring us on to not give up, but to dig in. Quitting isn’t the answer. I really love your words here today. Thank you for being brave and speaking up. xo

    • Thanks for steeping up with a comment Meredith. Whenever I write something like this I wonder and worry “maybe it’s just me”. I know change is slow but I’m happy to hear it’s happening in your neck of the woods. My new church is a new church so there’s grace for that. I really like it and hope to see growth in members of my age.

  3. Lisha, this ressonated deeply with me, as well. The mosaic illustration is beautiful and true… I think mid-life faith requires going beyond the “programmed’ ministries to get to the needs that you so eloquently highlight. However, it seems for many reasons, Church (the Body, me, all of us) have a hard time getting past the superficial, shallow of programming. Mid life is where the rubber meets the road of faith and all of life’s struggles and “programming” does not offer the answer. The question is how do we seek more Jesus? I hope that makes sense. I know there are many many ministers within the body, the Church struggling to offer Jesus to a very self absorbed, distracted world. I think your post highlights the reality of sharing the daily gospel of in a rapidly changing world. Midlifers (spoken as one) need a whole lot of grace Your writing points to some of the needs for how this grace may be offered.

    • I understand you completely. How? I’m chewing on that one. You use the word distracted and it’s just perfect for the people the church is charged with reaching. And yes to the grace midlifers need. And maybe the rapidly changing world and how we’re living means what I’m looking for won’t happen. Perhaps in a media/technology driven society the name of the game is get it and get it fast. Maybe for many, this new normal is enough. Maybe worship is happening online and that’s just the way it’ll be. We’ll tune in to service on the way to the rink/soccer field etc. and call it done. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic. But I worry if we don’t keep it together the family unit will continue to crumble and we the wandering midlifers will give all we have, our gifts and talents to anything that’s connecting the dots and speaking directly to our hearts. I’m probably rambling but I’m so glad to engage with you here Melinda. So glad.

  4. I’m a mid-lifer and find that the women my age come to church on Sunday morning and maybe evening but rarely get involved in bible study or ministry activities. It’s sad. I just reach out to the younger women and build into their lives.

    • I do do that too. But I’m not ready to be the church mother…if that makes sense. I just want to do community in Christ with women my age. I have that online but not in church. For the past 9 years we’ve been one of only a handful of midlifers in an off shoot of a mega church. And now, in a church plant, we may be the only. So this bis me just asking. Where are the midlife believers? Thanks for reading and commenting Debbie.

    • Absolutley Diane and that’s IF we get there on Sunday morning. There are so many things pulling us away from a faith filled community. And that is the heart cry…to live a Book of Acts lifestyle. But how? I’m wrestling with this today and am grateful you’ve come along side me to help think thing through.

  5. Lisha, it is so true all transitions that are happening in our mid-life years, from taking care of our own kids, or grandkids, to helping our parents, on top of all the other things. At times, it makes it hard to meet and gather for fellowship. But “keep going” is resonates with a resounding, amen.

    • For me, there’s no other choice Tammy. I will ride the wave and continue to pray for the grace to be where he’d have me. Wherever that is. What ever that looks like.

  6. Lisha, this is so well said! Having been a part-time pastor in a multi-generational church, I can speak from the staff side about how difficult it can be to foster/encourage/design/talk about ministries that cross all those lines we so often draw, but particularly generationally. We do pretty well at it where I go (and where I ministered) but there is always lots more to do. One of the things we’ve noticed is that regular church attendance seldom happens at any age. It’s a fact and a tough one to plan around. Life has changed dramatically in the last 50+ years and the days of 3xwk at church are gone. I’m grateful for your words and your heart and will continue to pray with you for more street-corner communities that welcome, include and challenge every age group.

    • You make a great point Diana…gone are the days of attending church 3 times a week. The younger single and newly married people I know still seem to go several times a week. But my midlife is torn between shuttling our children around all week. I don’t have time during the week and I’m just too tired by the weekend. And I just heard him say again SLOW..my #oneword365. #SlowChurch…maybe its time to think about that. Love you for stopping by lady! Hope you’re well.

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: