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20 Quotes Warning Against Ageism in the Church

MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the prospect of joyful aging. She explores and shares habits of happy seniors.

Willful discrimination against people because of their age is called ageism.

Willful discrimination against people because of their age is called ageism.

My heart is saddened for churches that push older leaders aside to make room for ambitious younger members. Such action demonstrates lack of compassion, lack of insight, and lack of creativity. For, with a sense of our God-given purpose, an appreciation for spiritual gifts, and our focus on the church’s mission, we can create ways for qualified seniors and youth to share leadership. That will be the theme of a future article.

Here, I want to point out that this willful discrimination against people because of their age is called ageism, which, even in social circles, is frowned upon. So why is it being advocated in the church which cherishes an anti-discrimination Bible as its guide? And how do we plan to deal with the fact that more old members are hanging around longer?

The following quotes cite warnings against embracing ageism in the church. They will help us realize that this divisive feature can weaken, not strengthen, the effectiveness of the church and the faith of its members. Affiliations or positions are attached to each person quoted, to highlight the fact that they speak from experience, not just from conjecture. These twenty quotes are humbly submitted for our consideration.


1. “Ageism prevents many people of all ages from seeing that potentials are as bountiful as problems among older adults… It diminishes the church's witness and mission.” —UM Discipleship Ministries

2. “Some of our negative images of the aging process arise out of … ‘facts’ about older people, many of which are not facts at all… For example: ‘All old people resist new ideas…All old people are senile.’” —UCC Parish Life and Leadership Ministry

3. “It hurts to be rejected on the basis of age as surely as it hurts to be rejected because of gender or race or any other unavoidable trait.” —Bishop Kenneth L. Carder

4. “As church leaders, we cannot afford to overlook the value that older staff bring to the table, especially at the initial stage of exploration… The Lord has a pattern of choosing the ones we did not expect.” —Vanderbloemen, Pastor and Author

5. “Up until a certain age you're an active Christian, you've got a calling, you've got a ministry…and then you've hit the age of 65/70…And now you're not valuable… God never puts a retirement age on Christianity." —Steve Robinson, Prama Foundation

6. “How many times have older staff been cut in the name of stewardship? And how many churches are intentional about investing in the spiritual growth of people over 50?” —Steve Johnson, Insight for Living

7. “There is no end-point in Ephesians 2:10 [For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works]. The ‘good works’ it mentions are for life.” —Louise Morse, Pilgrims Friends Society

8. “We must all stand up for justice, and no one is better equipped to do so than the older pastor, in whom God, through the grace of time, may have begun to create wisdom.” —John Charles Cooper, Theologian

9. "Partnering young and old is key for any church tech team. That way, ministries get the benefit of high-energy and flexibility along with the invaluable ingredients of wisdom and maturity." —Van Metschke, Church Relations Advocate

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10. “Ageism may have been adapted to suit perceived cultural context, but … its implementation has served to severely divide the church at its most needful point of unity, Christian worship.” —Dr. Paul Clark, Jr., Tennessee Baptist Convention

We cannot afford to overlook the value that older staff bring to the table.

We cannot afford to overlook the value that older staff bring to the table.

First Person Experiences

11. "By the way, for those who want to know, President Joe Biden and I are the same age. And he’s still working." —Tom Buechele, Episcopal Cafe

12. “All of us who are 65 and older have experienced some form of ageism — even though we perhaps have not been aware of it.” — Herb Bowman, UM Committee on Older Adult Ministries

13. "I try to remind leaders in our churches and in our Conference, that the emphasis we place on 'getting young people involved' is important. But don’t do it at the expense of abandoning the older members." —Paul Graves, PNW Conference

14. "I’ll never forget my first round of layoffs in the corporate world… They kept the cheap labor… Don’t do this in your church. Even worse, don’t cut people in the name of “stewardship,” because the Bible has a much grander view of stewardship than mere cash flow.” —Sam Rainer, Pastor

15. "Most multi-ethnic churches have multi-ethnic staff. I, for one, champion this movement... Churches should serve all people, which includes generational diversity—in the congregation and on staff." —Sam Rainer, Pastor

Bible Verses for Consideration

16. "Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the Lord." —Psalm 148:12-13 CSB

17. "God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would spend our lives doing the good things he had already planned for us to do." —Ephesians 2:10 ERV (Emphasis mine)

18. "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." —Psalm 145:4 ESV

19. "All of you young people should obey your elders. In fact, everyone should be humble toward everyone else." —1 Peter 5:5 CEV

20. "I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another." —Acts 10:34 CEB

Bonus Quotes for Victims of Ageism

  • "Challenge yourself to challenge ageism whenever and however you can, confident that your challenge is an act of faith and hope." —Paul Graves, PNW Conference
  • "Don’t be guilty of trying to act younger... Learn what it means to age well." Steve Johnson, Insight for Living

© 2021 Dora Weithers

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