Inside Out 283: The Church Over 40

07.31.13 | Martha Manikas-Foster

Maybe you’ve noticed: many faithful members are pulling back from church participation after about the age of 40. Why? Writer Michelle Van Loon decided to explore this question, and in the process learned that there are “an awful lot of us that don’t know what our place is in our local churches anymore.”

To learn what people in their “second adulthood” are thinking, Van Loon developed a simple—and admittedly unscientific—survey. While the majority of the 400 respondents—58 percent—said they were just as involved, or more involved, in their local church than they were a decade ago, a significant minority “reported that they had become invisible people in their churches, unless they were excited about serving in the nursery, or helping out at VBS,” Van Loon said. “It appears that very few churches have been very intentional about how to help their older members bear fruit in this season of their lives.”

Interestingly enough, those who reported that they are pulling back from involvement in their local churches often said that they are not pulling back from Christian fellowship and service. Because their churches emphasize programming for young children and young families, however, those over 40 found that they need to connect, serve, and develop as disciples apart from their local congregations.

“Quite a few of the respondents were involved in small groups, various mission outreaches, community service—other kinds of things that had nothing much to do with their church’s programming,” Michelle reports. “Others were being the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’ by caring for elderly parents or for grandchildren.”

Van Loon believes that by listening to the people in the pews, churches have an opportunity to discover how to connect better to believers of all ages.

But it’s not just those in church leadership who can learn from engaging in this kind of conversation.  Van Loon encourages Christians in their “second adulthood” to “realize that the challenges that we are facing during this season of life are God’s invitations to bear fruit that will last.”

You can listen to the entire conversation with Michelle Van Loon by clicking on the Listen or Download icons above.

To keep up with Van Loon’s blog and learn more about her observations from the survey, click here:


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 07.31.13 Cathy Bierma commented

I found that when I was 40 + I finally HAD time to be involved. I was able to go on hospital visits, cook for the workers in our tent meetings...even serve at the tent meetings. work in the kitchen at church, assist in the food pantry, go to thrift stores and collect clothes for our give aways, shovel the walk in winter, clean the church after sunday service,, and in general assist when ever and where ever I was needed. When i had little ones, I was tied down with those responsibilities the children required,

on 07.31.13 Martha commented

Great observation, Cathy. Time is a big factor, isn't it? A majority (58%) of the people Michelle heard from in her survey seem to have some similar stories--that they continue to feel like they fit in their local church, which they find to be a wonderful avenue for them to worship and serve and glorify God.