Are churches missing out on discipling those in midlife?

Last week in our #AmplifyWomen series, Helen Lee addressed the need for diversity in discipleship. This week, Michelle Van Loon turns our attention to the gap in discipleship for middle-aged and retired women.

Four years ago, I asked readers of my blog over age 40 to respond to my informal survey about their relationship with the local church. After querying survey respondents to gather some basic demographic data, I asked them if they were more, less, or just as involved today in their local church as they’d been a decade earlier. Then I asked why.

I anticipated getting 50 responses, but instead I received more than 500. Two-thirds of those respondents were women. Slightly more than half reported they’d maintained or increased their church involvement, but nearly that many reported they’d downshifted their involvement or exited the institutional church entirely. “My church seems to focus on involvement in programs and projects that have little lasting spiritual impact in the lives of those served,” one told me, echoing the concerns of others. Another response was typical of those I received from people no longer able to serve because of health problems or caregiving responsibilities. “After 18 years of membership and service in the same church, my husband became ill and disabled and I became his caregiver,” she said. “We are unable to actively serve the church any longer, so we are ignored.”

George Barna presents sobering data reflecting the quiet exodus from the church among boomers and gen x-ers. The data indicates it isn’t just millennials leaving the church but sizeable numbers of those at midlife and beyond. In their recent book Church Refugees, sociologists …

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