It seems as if something is wrong with the church these days. Maybe it’s not something wrong with the institution itself but the people within the church. Who knows? But I read more and more posts and articles about loving, gracious, well-meaning Christians giving out right rejection to the church as an institution.
I am writing most of this post as a response to a post over on motleymama.com. As a friend of Kate’s, I have the upmost respect for her opinions and I thought I would write something in response.
There has been more and more research done lately around 20-somethings and their reaction to the church. David Kinnaman has a book out called ‘You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith’ about the phenomenon of kids leaving the church after they graduate high school. Some of them come back after they have kids, but many don’t. I think there are several reasons why this happens. All of this is my own observation and has no research or actual facts behind it. So take this with a grain of salt.
1. We have lost the compelling nature of the Story of God. If there is one reason why I would walk away from church at this point in my life is that most churches, and pastors fail to present the compelling nature of Jesus. From my perspective, legalism, alter calls, and hypocrisy has turned Christianity into a ‘get your prize in the sky when you die’ sort of religion. This does work for 20-somethings who want nothing more than to make a difference in this world.
2. Some churches hold on to tradition instead of embracing change. I am not talking about changing what we believe, but rather a change in the way that we do church. I think most 20-somethings would love to be involved in their churches, but when they feel they can not experiment or that their ideas will not be heard, it turns us away. There are traditions worth holding on to, but maybe there are some new traditions worth embracing.
3. There is no training, discipleship and/or leadership positions for 20-somethings. Remember how I said that ’20-somethings want nothing more than to make a difference in this world? When we can not get the training and discipleship and there are no leadership positions for us to step into, we are turned away. Does your church allow for young people to have responsibility and leadership?
So how do we fix it? How do we get young people to keep coming to church and even more so, to be involved in the church? I think fixing the three above issues can make a big difference…
1. Make the story of Jesus compelling once again. Jesus said during his time on Earth that he came to give us life, and more abundant life. This is not a story that can or should be ignored. So why has it become so dull and dry? We have focused more on us getting to heaven than bringing heaven to Earth. Begin focusing on how we can maximize life here on Earth and young people will listen.
2. Embrace change and begin to define culture. Believe it or not, but at one point in the church’s history, the Church was on the leading edge of culture. It doesn’t seem to be that way any more. The church seems to be against culture rather than changing or making the culture. Young people, especially 20-somethings want to be trend setters. Use those gifts, creativity and drive to make your church a home for the culture makers in your town.
3. Use the 20-somethings in your church as leaders and give them importance. There are so many 20-somethings that I know that have great leadership potential and giftings. They are just wanting somewhere that they can develop and use those gifts. Why not use your church as a place where they can get training and development for that leadership ability? Find places for them to get involved and feel important. Don’t just stick them in nursery or have them serve at the senior dinner. Let them lead. Find out what they are passionate about and use the church to help them fulfill their calling. This is how we develop next generation leaders.
Maybe I am wrong about all of this. Maybe your church is doing this very well and you see great attendance from young people. How do you feel about my thoughts? Please let me know in the comment section. Challenge me, agree with me, whatever. Just make your voice heard!