When Bowling Alleys Close

Route 19 Bowl & Lounge here in Washington closed its doors for good yesterday. Within a month, demolition of the building will begin. With this change comes the end of my Thursday night bowling league, as the 17 teams are scattering to three different area bowling alleys for next season.

I’m not very good at bowling, but I enjoy being in leagues for a variety of reasons. One reason is the chance to meet and socialize with people I otherwise would probably never meet. In particular, bowling is one of the few social activities in our culture that draws an inter-generational crowd. Our now defunct league was made up of adults of every age, and we all got along like one big family with several generations.

I am a big proponent of inter-generational friendships, and the church is another place where these relationships can blossom. But sometimes, we stifle this by creating all our ministry groups and worship opportunities around ages, genders, or life stages. The resulting church “community” becomes little more than a collection of segregated groups. While age-appropriate and gender-appropriate ministries are essential, there is also a need to bridge the generational gaps, so young and old can listen and learn from each other.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, he charged the older women of the church to “encourage the young women,” (2:3), and the older men of the church to “urge the younger men to be self-controlled” and to “Show yourself in all respects a model of good works.” (2:6-7). Paul also wrote to a young leader, Timothy, encouraging him to “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Paul’s message is clear: no matter what age, we have something to teach and something to learn from people of different ages than us. And a healthy church is one that fosters multi-generational relationships in its ministry. I am glad that Avery seems to do well with this. We encourage inclusion of children in worship. We consider our older members when planning ministry or renovating the building. And my heart is strangely warmed every Sunday that I walk into the fellowship hall after worship and see young adults talking and laughing with people old enough to be their parents or grandparents. Sometimes those interactions even create conversation about ways of living or current social issues, where generational lines are recognized yet are not a barrier to fruitful dialogue.

With the closing of yet another bowling alley, I’m reminded that the church’s role in cultivating inter-generational relationships is more important now than ever before. So whether you are young or old, or somewhere in the middle, be intentional about developing relationships with people of different ages. Such relationships are a blessing to all who engage in them, and they also help us more fully become the body of Christ envisioned by scripture.

— Pastor Erik