Monday, November 12, 2018

We’ve got to involve young people!

Over the years I have been involved in a number of membership organizations related to Western culture and history. There is a common outcry among them: “Look around! Everyone here has gray hair! If we don’t get young people involved, we’re done!” (Add as many exclamation points as you like.) You’ve probably heard the same stuff.
It would be silly to deny that most such organizations are largely populated by people of late middle age and beyond. The evidence is there, for everyone to see.
But does it matter?
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with attracting younger members and I am all for it. On the other hand, I see no reason to panic.
Because, if my observations over the past couple of decades (or longer) are any indication, while members aren’t getting any younger, they aren’t getting any older, either. On average, of course. I suspect the age range, the mean, the average, and all those other measures have remained fairly constant.
The reason? I believe interest in such things is something most people have to grow into. When you’re a teenager, a young parent, a working stiff, your time and energy are necessarily devoted to other things. You tend to be more concerned with whatever you’re dealing with today and what you’ll be facing tomorrow than with what happened in the past.
But when the pace of life decelerates, and your outlook on life changes with maturity, so do your interests. And, for a lot of people, those interests include history, and ancestry, and all the other things that made cowboy culture what it is. And continuing and preserving all that stuff becomes important to us.
Keep after those young people. Some of them will see the importance of the things we older folks value. But most of them probably won’t.
At least not until they become older folks.


  1. Well said, I am in complete agreement, and long retired.

  2. I agree with Neil. Well said. Of course, the same alarms are raised in churches. What I've seen happen there is that, in the interests of bringing in (younger) people (or any demographic that seems to be missing), the message gets blanded down so that nothing off-putting might arise. If that succeeds in bringing in people, it also succeeds in changing the mix for those who were already there, and that cannot be altogether expedient for that crowd. In the Bible, we see Jesus rebutting his enemies but we do not seem him seeking out his enemies to buttonhole them. He goes instead to "he who has ears." He sows his seed in "the good soil." Those are always the eager, willing ones. The same logic could be applied to any endeavor - compose your message for the true believers, not for the barely interested. They're not ready.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree that dumbing things down is not advisable. But I disagree where Jesus is concerned. It is clear, repeatedly, in scripture that he went out of his way to seek out and help and teach the unwanted and the marginalized--women, children, publicans, prostitutes, lepers, the blind, beggars, the poor, and so on. He even used a story featuring one of the hated Samaritans to teach us what it means to love our neighbor. If he rebutted anyone, it was the hardliners--the Pharisees. He Himself said he was there for the "lost sheep," not only the true believers.

  3. Also this: noticing that the membership is not necessarily dying off - that it is presumably getting replaced, though at the late-middle-age level - is a good observation.