Our FCC Search Committee for an Associate Pastor has gathered and met. Last Sunday an 11th Hour informed the criteria for our search. Clearly, our new pastor will be involved with familiar heartbeat ministries like pastoral care and leadership of worship. But ministry with youth and young families is at the core of the calling.
The Washington Post’s Rachel Held Evans puts a surprising twist on youth in the church today. Among those coming of age around the year 2000, 25% claim no affiliation. This disconnect is much greater than Generation X, twice as great as my own Boomer generation, which itself falls far short of the Greatest Generation.
How do we woo back the young? She writes, “In response, many churches have sought to lure millennials back by focusing on style points: cooler bands, hipper worship, edgier programming, and impressive technology. While these aren’t inherently bad ideas and in some cases might be effective, they’re not the key to drawing millennials back to God in a lasting and meaningful way. Young people don’t simply want a better show. And trying to be cool might make things worse.”
The reputable Barna Group found that 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one. And 77 percent would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium”. While young people have yet to warm up to a word like “traditional”, millennials exhibit an increasing aversion to exclusive, closed-minded religious communities posing as hip. It seems authenticity rings true with all of us, with all generations. This age group is “frustrated with slick and shallow expressions of religion.” This shouldn’t surprise us, having been so bombarded with advertising.
A full 87% of young people refuse to attend, perceiving the church as judgmental. Another 85% stay away perceiving the church to be hypocritical. Only 8% don’t attend because the church is “out of date.” In other words, acting hipper or cooler than we are is about as persuasive and attractive as the guy with the comb-over.
She claims several things I loved to hear. “The trick isn’t to make church cool; it’s to keep worship weird. What finally brought me back, after years of running away was the sacraments. Baptism, confession, communion, preaching the Word, anointing the sick—the strange rituals Christians have practiced for 2,000 years.” Coffee house geniality is everywhere, findings show, but “the church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a plunge into the water.” Wow! That sounds familiar, like recent themes we’ve been exploring, doesn’t it? I’d describe our worship style as classic, but welcoming of contemporary touches.
It’s not about marketing Jesus, thanks be to God. It is still about following him. Moving forward, let us fear thinking we already know how to proceed because we understand our needs and wants. They’re notoriously slippery. Self-deception is rampant. It’s less about making God more relevant to our everyday life, and more about making our everyday lives more relevant to God. Big, but subtle difference!