Bride of Christ, Christ, Christianity, Church Vitality, Fertility, Hot Flashes, Infertility, Mainline Protestantism, menopause, Middle Age, Middle Aged, Perimenopause, progressive Christianity, Vitality
I believe the church is entering its state of perimenopause.
Being a woman who is around middle age and experiencing the slow onset of symptoms, I’ll admit that I may be projecting some of my exciting life onto the current state of Christianity. But the more I read symptoms, the more I believe the Church is in perimenopause – the full-fledged middle-aged transitional period of ups and downs. And, yes, this means that if the Church is the Bride of Christ, then Christ’s bride is going through “the change.”
We’re hot and cold. Do you ever notice how some weeks church attendance is low and other Sundays attendance is up? How come some events are well attended and others are not? The hot flashes of Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve services give us hope and passion that maybe we will have connected with a larger audience, and then the following Sundays church attendance has cooled down to its normal state (or slightly lower). Nothing is truly consistent. Perimenopause is a time of riding the ebb and flow of hormonal waves. As leaders of churches, we ride the swings of highs and lows. Bring along a fan and a jacket because we won’t know what we’ll need that Sunday.
Fertility exists in a different state. We like to think of fertility being a numbers game – more children, more young families, bigger attendance, etc. But fertility isn’t what it was in our 20’s or 30’s, and fertility in churches isn’t what it was in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Fertility in the second-act church includes more quality time with our smaller congregations, heightened online presence and outside of the box thinking. As middle-aged women, we do not intend to stop creating even when physical birth is not an option. Likewise, the Church shouldn’t give up on its process of creation and birthing new programs.
Just like perimenopause, the life of the Church is not over. Instead, the Church has now reached middle age. The Church is not dying – – far from it. When those of us who are women realize that this change is upon us, we often think our lives are over, that we’re “dried up.” Nonsense! A reimagined act two is about to begin. What does that new stage of our life look like? How will we be vital with our physical bodies or our church body looking different? We are all still so full of life, and whether we read this as middle aged women, as church leaders or as congregations. Now is the time to find those new techniques in vitality which will remind us that we’re still very much alive and ready to listen for where God is calling us in this era of our lives.
Whether it’s the story of the resurrection, the fertility stories of Sarah or Elizabeth or our 45-year-old friend’s new hobbies or life activities, let’s remember that life isn’t over for us as middle-aged individuals or as churches finding our second wind.