By DEBRA WHITE SMITH
— Question: There is a group of older people in our church who are really causing problems. They have been asked to change their Sunday School room to a smaller one, to better accommodate another larger class who needs their room, and they are refusing. Our pastor is insisting they change; but they continue to refuse. There's a bad spirit brewing, and I'm starting to get aggravated myself. I don't understand why these older people can't have the maturity to bow out gracefully and meet in a smaller room. Am I wrong to be so irritated at them?
Answer: In many situations like this, the issue probably has nothing to do with the Sunday School room. Most likely, there is another issue at play. The Sunday School room has just become the token battle topic to express feelings over suppressed, negative emotions.
There is a strong chance that the senior adults in your church may feel that they are being swept aside with little or no regard for their feelings. Even if a disregard and disrespect for them is not the intent, it can seem a fact to them if that is how they feel.
In our youth-oriented society, it is too common for senior adults to be at odds with the younger groups at church. That's because many times these senior adults have spent decades supporting the church with their time and money and prayers. They are the ones who God often used to hold their church together during the lean years. Many of them are the ones who stayed in their church when attendance was low. Now, after a lifetime of service, too often they feel as if they are being pushed aside. They are told either directly or indirectly that their tastes and preferences and needs must take a back seat to the youth, and that they just don't matter as much. This eventually sets up a slow burn of resentment in their hearts, and then they will refuse to budge over issues like Sunday School rooms and the type of music that is sung.
See, the issue in so many churches over singing hymns is really not about the hymns. It's about a group of people who want their tastes and preferences recognized and respected as much as everyone else's in the church.
My experience with most senior adults is that when a church supports, respects, and praises them for the years of service they have given to the Kingdom of God, they are usually more than willing to change Sunday School rooms, sing songs besides just the hymns, and even support the youth program.
Understand that the senior adults in most churches are the ones who have gone before to pave the way and pay the way for what we enjoy in the present, and I believe it pleases God when they are given the utmost respect for their sacrifice.
I recommend that your pastor back away from this fight and instead, invest energies into getting to know these senior adults and letting them see he genuinely loves and respects them. Most churches can find more than one solution to Sunday School classroom needs. In this case, even if the pastor does win the fight, it probably isn't worth the fallout.
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org