Not enough hours in the day


So, I went to this Clergy Brunch at Ingleside yesterday. It was very interesting. I sat by this wonderful woman named Louise Winfield. I don’t know how old Louise is, I’m guessing she’s in her early 80s (it’s always dangerous to guess…). And, you know—people who say that’s the greatest generation—I’m going to give it to them.

Has anyone else noticed it? I mean, some of the 70+ year olds in our church are just amazing people. I’m not someone who thinks that age alone makes a person wise. I just think that particular generation of Americans is smashing. And, contrary to popular notions, many of them are very progressive.

I actually feel really honored that I got a chance to work with them as long as I did. The church is just going to be an entirely different place without them around.

Louise introduced me to everyone in the room, and kept asking them, “Have you read her book?”

And they would roll their eyes slightly and say, “No. You gave it to me, but it’s still sitting on my desk.”

And she would press, “Well, you need to read it. It’s not just for young people. Everyone needs to read this book.”

I’m making Louise my manager.

I learned yesterday that the nursing facility used to be entirely run by the Women’s Association of the church. Can you imagine? Sitting there, I thought about what it would have been like to run something like that in my free time.

It makes sense. I don’t have any friends who are child-free and stay at home, but I do have some who stay at home with their kids. Some are very happy at home. Others are not. I’ve watched men and women go into major depressions when they decide to stay home. And other people bloom beautifully.

So, I imagine that’s what women did when they got frustrated with full-time domesticity, back in the day. They took on these major volunteer jobs.

Times have changed.

Do I long for a time when women didn’t get paid for all of their hard work? No. But it’s clear that our society has transitioned. There’s the generation of older adults where one person in the household worked forty hours and the other person did the housework. Not always, of course, but that was the norm. And when they were young—that was when the mainline was actually mainline. We flourished.

Now men and women have less time. For a younger generation, especially in urban areas, two people work in the household. Forty percent of wives who work make more than their husbands. They both do housework and juggle the children—and it’s clear that the kids are the priority. Life is a huge, exhausting, wonderful ordeal for much of the time.

So what’s that mean for the church? What’s church going to look like as the greatest generation is no longer involved? How will we keep our democratic governing, without insisting on hundreds of volunteer hours from our congregations each month? What are we going to do about adult education? It’s clear that the young families in our church are not doing the Wednesday night dinner thing—but there’s still a need for something.

We’re kicking around different ideas. Devotional books with daily readings, and one discussion time. Christian ed blogs. What are your ideas? What’s working in your church? What do you wish you could do?

the photo’s by Muffinmc

16 thoughts on “Not enough hours in the day

  1. My small sphere of the church world is disability ministries. Within this world, it was always the parents who had children with disabilities who began ministries within the congregations. Usually it was a mother who didn’t have a full-time job. The specialized ministry became their passion and it flourished.

    However and believe me, I’ve been there. The respect level from “the professional” community was extremely low for the untrained volunteer.

    Of course, it was the same with everything from janitorial to day care to youth ministry to DCE. Someone, perhaps a Louise, saw a need, took on the job. When it was successful, a real professional was hired to replace Louise.

    I think you are right, it will be an interesting world in the church when Louise is gone. Thanks for your observations.

  2. I just got out of a class where we were discussing Dana Roberts book on American Women in Mission.

    Women are the backbone of the church. Where would the church be without them?

    I wonder how we shall minister to the younger generations…what language do they speak. I know what I will and will not do in church and what worked for me to bring me in.

    How do we connect the greatest generation with the slacker generation (I use this as a bona fide slacker)? We are losing so much history and information as our grandmothers and grandfather die.

    I am not sure any of it matters if the boomers are not ready to share with us the leadership of the church. If we are not let in we will go else where.

    Church is not a building, it is a people. I imagine a church that penetrates the sacred veil of divine and sits on a profane chair and speaks of the merger of the two as transformation happens in meaningful and intimate ways.

    Who will do? I am sure there are many out there ready to do. It may be that their do is not the do of yore.

  3. I just read a news report that an 80-year-old member of the Greatest Generation is filing a lawsuit alleging that women cannot be President because the Constitution refers to the President as “He.”

    So I needed to read about Louise today. Thank you.

  4. yeah, but I have a 90 year old in my noon bible study who is GREAT!!!! and I would have never guessed she’s 90.

    She visits her friends in the hospital.

    so, I don’t know what to do. There’s a young woman in my congregation who sometimes reads my blog and copies off some of the better entries for friends at work. (wha?) so maybe the blog ed thing would work.

    my bible study is mostly the greatest generation. And don’t get me started on children not going to worship. the atheists won’t have to attack the church. in 20 years no one will remember why it was important to worship.

    no, I’m sure that won’t happen.

    good questions, as always.

  5. Yes- they are people so they’re not all great. But, I kind of think wisdom does come with age. My Grandmother is 95 and is the smartest woman I’ve ever talked to!!! Also, she was a career woman. A schoolteacher, with a masters, and she didn’t marry until she was 28 and had my dad in her 30’s. So she was progressive for the times.

    You know, too, that the boomers are laughing at us in our “emergent” ideas when they were the Hippy Generation. They just think they learned from their mistakes!! One of my friends who I go to church with (who’s in her 60’s) told me “My generation tried to change the world but it didn’t work.”

    I disagree, I think the work of generations past paved the way, and we have to keep paving.

    On the stay at home thing. I choose to stay home and not work. My husband makes enough, but we definitely make less than most families around me, because I don’t work. I see it as a trade off. It’s nice and we just cut back a lot. But-I have to keep volunteering in order to stay sane. And I don’t get tons of respect from working women, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I would work if I could be flexible enough to be off when my kids are home, but i don’t feel like I could teach school. Plus, with volunteering I get to make my own hours!

  6. Dannah,

    That’s a perfect work situation. My husband stayed at home with our daughter. He loved it, but then he was ready to get back to work.

    I work with a boomer, and whenever I talk about the emergent movement, he reminds me of how much it was like the 60s. The parallels are interesting. But then I get kind of nervous with those comparisons too. In some ways, the Jesus people et al were such weird movements. Brian (my husband) has been watching all of these documentaries of late on it.

    Dannah and Diane, you have something in common you both have guitarist husbands. Of course, they may play the guitar a little differently, but…

  7. What a great discussion, Carol!
    The church I am just beginning to serve as Interim is definitely divided along not only generational but family lines, in a more dramatic way than others in my experience. The hostility between the old and the new (or the local and the “from away”) is palpable. The latter group couldn’t care less about the building, the former group, thus far, seems to care about nothing else. That’s too pat and simple, so I am looking for the deeper conflicts. It will be a challenge.

  8. Louise is such a neat woman. She was one of the first women ordained to be Elder in our Presbytery. She still serves VERY actively. I get have the pleasure of seeing her at least once a month in the office.

  9. Songbird,

    Oh! I can relate to that so well.

    I had a family chapel one time. About a year into it, I finally noticed out how everyone was from the same tree… Of course, it was Cajun, so “Who’s your mamma?” was the first question everyone asked, and then they spent the next twenty minutes figuring out how they were related.

    There were so many things I loved about it, but it was difficult for them to receive new members, fully. And, as a pastor, I was always an outsider….

    Good luck.

  10. Pingback: Millenials and the PC(USA) : presbymergent

  11. If you can make Louise your manager, you’ll be in really, really good stead. She’s a truly remarkable human being.

    I’m not sure if I’d typify the transition of one full time job per household to two full time jobs per household as a positive one. In this area, it’s necessary, but I think the collateral damage to our sanity, our spirits, and our sense of balance is too great. If you study the histories of charitable and voluntary organization in the U.S., the impacts of the massive volunteer drain within our communities are inescapable. Those common spaces and places where communities gather are drying out. Folks are simply too dang tired and distracted to engage, and that impacts church and our broader sense of community engagement.

    That doesn’t mean I’d want a return to the gendered income and power imbalance that existed before. But I’m not convinced that this is a cultural trend that should be accommodated by the church. If the expectations of culture are strangling the joy out of peoples lives, shouldn’t we be prophetically resisting those expectations?

  12. Yeah. I hear you. I would just not be a good person to be prophetic on this one. I mean, considering how our household functions….

    And, Iit was actually a lot more stressful for us when my husband stayed home with our daughter… the financial strains were just too much.

  13. Oh! And David… we just received a new member in our church who (I think) grew up in your church. It’s been many, many years since she’s been there. She’s now past retirement age and lives in Arlington. But it’s a small world…

  14. Yeah…the financial strains in this area can be acute. We never quite went to one income only…I managed to wangle a 3/4 time arrangement as I finished up seminary, and my wife worked 1/2 time, and when we stitched that together with family support networks, it sorta worked. It’s more of a challenge now as two full timers, particularly when the summer rolls around, and the boys are out of school. At least my session lets me flex time and do creative things with leave and telework. Amazing how much churchy stuff you can get done while at a swim team practice. The key here, I think, is businesses and employers being actually, truly, genuinely “family friendly.”

    What’s the name of the former member?

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