Age separation should only be a temporary thing

In Modern Reformation magazine, there was an interview with J.I. Packer about his thoughts on the current status of the evangelical church in America. One of the questions stood out to me:

What do you think about a niche marketing approach that has by virtue of the different worship styles-teen pop, alternative, and adult boomer-created generational segregation?

We have separated the ages, very much to the loss of each age. In the New Testament, the Christian church is an all-age community, and in real life the experience of the family to look no further should convince us that the interaction of the ages is enriching. The principle is that generations should be mixed up in the church for the glory of God. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t disciple groups of people of the same age or the same sex separately from time to time. That’s a good thing to do. But for the most part, the right thing is the mixed community in which everybody is making the effort to understand and empathize with all the other people in the other age groups. Make the effort is the key phrase here. Older people tend not to make the effort to understand younger people, and younger people are actually encouraged not to make the effort to understand older people. That’s a loss of a crucial Christian value in my judgment. If worship styles are so fixed that what’s being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don’t believe the worship style glorifies God, and some change, some reformation, some adjustment, and some enlargement of spiritual vision is really called for.

The age separation in the Korean-American church should only be a temporary thing, necessitated in the short term by the language barrier that many congregations face. In many KA megachurches, there are separate Korean-language ministries for the adults and for the youth. This should not be; families should worship together. As 2nd gens form their own churches as they get married and raise families, I hope they won’t create separate youth groups. The Church must provide spiritual food for the youth, not entertain them and hope that they’ll eventually get “serious” once they become adults. There’s a reason so many college students who grew up going to church youth groups leave the church. It’s because they’ve never been taught to take the gospel seriously.

I like how Packer emphasizes “making the effort.” We all prefer to hang out with people like us, of the same age, socioeconomic bracket, and culture, but we must make the effort to bear with all of God’s chosen people. Young people can learn so much from older people, and older people can learn so much from younger people.

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