Why The Church Is Losing My Generation PT.2

Yesterday, I discussed the over arching issues surrounding my generation within the Church (http://wp.me/pFnzm-dJ).  Considering the overwhelming social change between my generation and the generations for me, we are left with an overwhelming gap within our own generation. We are extremely polarized in what we desire and want, not only within ourselves, but, what we want within a church.
One of the greatest problems facing my generation within the Church is that of realationality. The polarized gap has created a part of Christianity for my generation that wants to be solely independent people. This part of Christianity seeks to the answer of me. They want a Church that feeds to their needs. While another part of my generation is interdependent, What interdependent people seek are relationships that answer the we. Which also hits at another core issue of young adulthood facing my generation surrounding the question of what it means to be an adult. Previous generations strived for complete independence while that question is hanging over mine with a potential new answer of independence.
This issues surrounding my generation looks completely different within the Church. Those who have or seeking the independent relationship, this could potentially look very similar to the generation that is before us. They might be very content with going to Church, listening to worship music, listening to a sermon and potentially engaging in out of Sunday activities in group. While the interdependent young adult’s church experience is radically shaped around the quality of the relationship they’re with within the people they go to Church with. Also, because relationship is central to them, they’re cautious of to the people they allow to speak into their lives. Those with deeper relationships have deeper influence. A pastor who is not involved in this persons life, will have less effectiveness with their sermon because they have not found their way into this persons life. As well, if there are no young adults in the congregation, why would there be much appeal to go to Church because there is few that can relate to them on their level, share the current common experiences that they’re enduring and have a similar lifestyle. Going to Church is hard if there isn’t established relationships with a current generation there to do life with them.
A friend of mine recently told me, and I agree, that my generation has given up on the Church because the Church has given up on my generation. For my generation to return to the Church, the faces of the Church structure might change. For instance, the independent person may be completely happy in a larger Church where the Church is able to offer them resources that a smaller church might not be able to offer them. This Church will probably have to great speakers, worship leaders and have great resources in things like daycare, counseling, etc…. While the other side might look for smaller Churches like house Churches to maintain a very small an intimate community that is dedicated to living life together. A little disclaimer, I know people who are interdependent at large Churches and independent people at Small Churches. This is not a universal claim.
A Church that has not given up on my generation, will have to learn to be flexible. We are a generation that is truly seeking and doesn’t have a great identity to serve as our foundation. More than anything I know about my generation, I know this, this life is less about the destination as it is about the journey. We value the road to our answers, much more than the answers themselves. My hope is that we become a generation that loves the Church, but, the terms of this and the shaping of this might take radical flexibility on behalf of the older generations if they want us in it.

-How can we create relational opportunities for this generation in Church?
-Have we set up programs that don’t just look like dating services for young adults?
-How can the Church reach out to my generation to establish a connection and make them feel like an integral part of the community?

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14 thoughts on “Why The Church Is Losing My Generation PT.2

  1. Matt says:

    You’re right. There is a tremendous gap between generations. I think one of the major factors has been that discipleship lost the “life” function and became a classroom act. As a result, the generations hardly know each other. I think we need more life on life mentoring if we’re to begin to bridge that gap.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Matt, How do you think Churches could incorporate mentoring into it? Also, what does discipleship look like for a generation that has no religious or spiritual foundation?

  2. Phil Wood says:

    Here in the UK there’s a yawning gap where our young adults used to be. I have good reason to think about why. I work with young adults via Fresh Expressions of Church in Potters Bar. There’s not magic solutions. I do think though, that our society is more ‘tribal’ than it was. In the UK around 60% of the population have connection with church at all. That section of our population isn’t monolithic. It’s fragmented into a bewildering array of ethnic groups, countercultures and ‘scenes’. Finally we’re learning that we need to be in the business of Incarnational Mission. Each little ‘community’ though, presents a different challenge.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Phil,
      What advice would you have for us in reaching out to people in my generation (late teens to mid-twenties)? Maybe, the U.K is doing something much better than us.

  3. Just speaking out of my own personal experience which makes this hardly universal… I pulled away from the church (the institution not the body of believers) because it has become nearly irrelevant in the world today. What caused me to pull away, for quite sometime, from the Church (the body of believers) was the close-mindedness of people. Fortunately enough I have a friend at school who found a church which is relevant to the world, it is meeting needs of people, it isn’t a bunch of old people just barely alive coming together to sing the same boring four songs weekly, and it is actually alive and growing. This Church also loves people. We have people come in who just the night before got drunk with their buddies and instead of giving them weird looks we get em a cup of coffee. People are expected to change as they grow but we don’t expect you to already be “holy” when you come to God. The church/Church will lose us if this kind of mentality stays repressed by a dying generation and the future continues to be written off as wild.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Eric,
      You seem to have a beautiful vision of what you want for the Church, if this older generation continues to write this generation off as wild, as you say, how can we move on, or, hopefully, integrated peacefully with them?

      • I think a peaceful integration would require a lot of give and take. As a younger generation we need to not push so much that the older generation gets up in the air about our loud music or our style of dress. Yet from the same perspective the older generation needs to learn to love us in our “flaws” where we are. The church/Church of Acts was a very beautiful picture of Jesus after his ascension. Acts 2:42-47 gives us a picture of what a healthy C/church looks like. Then just a couple chapters later in Acts 4:32-35 we get even more of this healthy C/church. If peaceful integration is our desire I think the body within the institution needs to do a cross generational study of the early chapters of Acts and really figure out what made them so good. There doesn’t seem to be any reason at all why the C/church cannot be like that again and if we can put aside the mostly silly differences that pull us apart and get on the same wave length for the mission of the C/church then I believe we can be that. I mean does the style of music really matter that much? Hymn’s aren’t the worst things ever but neither is using camera’s and light shows to appeal to a younger group. All it is gonna take is compromise.

  4. I think the last thing the church needs to do is reach out to the young adults in a gimmicky way. I think if the church wants ’em, they gotta send out disciples. Because I think many young adults could care less about the church and maybe even think Christianity is a stuff archaic system – so the only way they’ll respond is if they meet a real person who is a Christian and is comfortable with it.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Charlie, such an interesting thought you gave me about being missional within the church to the Christians outside the Church? How do you think a Church could establish such an idea?

  5. Leya says:

    I’m afraid this is another long one. I wanted to try and address all three questions 🙂

    I fall under the interdependent category of churchgoers. I’m in interested in being part of a community that isn’t interested in being a part of my life and letting me be a part of their life. Isn’t that what community is?

    Relational opportunities for young adults aren’t just as easy as making prefabricated small groups. Community should happen both inside and outside of the church building, or the primary gathering (Ideally I’d start quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, but I lent it out to someone.). Relationships happen over meals and shared activities, serving together and struggling with each other. Relationships take time and energy that those who wish to maintain their independence may not want to sacrifice. Relationships take exposure, vulnerability and trust, generosity and grace. Most of all, they take Christ dwelling in and among us. As Christians, I believe our interdependence with one another is reliant on our dependence in God. If we’re not able to be dependent on Christ’s love, mercy and grace for us, our interdependence on each other will become codependence. As church communities we must look deep within our current ethos and practices and figure out where Christ dwells in and among the people. We must constantly seek to reflect the hospitality that Christ showed us – to those in the church and those outside of it, We must remember our journey into community and extend the same care and attention we received (or should have received) when we walked through the doors.

    As young adults do we really need our own group within the greater church community? It is great to have space that provides young adults with mirrors to their experience. To share stories and encourage one another as we walk along our shared age-group journey. Yet, it is equally important to share our lives and be part of the lives of others who are not in the same age group. I wish I knew how to balance these two! I don’t need a dating service, but I do need space build relationships with my peers (particularly because I’m still new to where I live). I need young adults, and other people in the church to be hospitable and in turn I need to extend it to others. Does a church need to have a young adults group to serve young adults? No, but they should be intentional about recognizing new faces and inviting them into community that extends beyond Sunday mornings (or whenever the main gathering is).

    To answer your final question, I want to ask you one: Is it solely the church’s responsibility to make us feel like an integral part of the community? Isn’t it also ours? Let’s face it, our generation has a particularly unfortunate stereotype of being non-committal. The sad reality is that, we as a group (not everyone, but enough) have lived up to that label. Being an integral part of a community means more than just showing up. It means serving and being served. What can the church do? It can meet us halfway. It can invite us into the conversation and perhaps even into leadership. We can accept the invitation and dive in. Last week you asked your twitter followers if we thought the world was a better or worst place than it used to be. I responded… “How about… What kind of world are you interested in creating or being part of?” If we are willing to critique and give recommendations we must also be willing take part in implementing them.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Leya,
      Such great thoughts again, and, than you so much for your wisdom and kind response.

      To answer your question I say yes and no (because answers sometimes aren’t that simple). It is the job of the Church to be missional, so the Church needs to reach out to those not in the Church. However, it is also responsible for the individual to be able to seek and ask for what they need. So, if they truly want relationships, they have to seek and ask for this at the same time.

      I’d be interested in hearing more about the blessings your community has given you. Do you have people your own age at your Church?

      • Leya says:

        There are quite a few people my age at the church that I attend right now, but they are in very different life stages. We have a thriving college aged group, but we are struggling to find a meaningful way for post-college young adults to connect (me included) with each other. Post-college young adults don’t easily fall into one life stage. Some are single, others just married, several have children. From what I can tell I ended up in a church trying to figure out the interdependence vs. independence thing. Unfortunately that makes finding middle ground to create space for young adults difficult. Inviting people into interdependence, which I’d ideally like to do, is a relational risk that takes time and creativity.

        I ended up getting connected within my current church community because I was proactive. I sought out a community that I could serve and be served in. In many ways I am blessed through their willingness to let me serve, and investing in me as an intern. The thing is, my church isn’t perfect. There are days that I disagree with decisions that leadership makes. There are sermons that make me want to publicly disagree or stage a walk out. There are even days that I just want to leave. To their credit they give me space to ask questions and disagree.

  6. Jason says:

    Mike i am definitely someone who wants, if not requires a strong personal bond with any faith oriented community. Before coming to launch i knew half it’s members, before exploring Megan’s church i had already met the minister and the music director. That is exactly what i struggle with, letting myself be vulnerable to the institution of the church, in any form.
    It was a huge feat for me to check our campus ministry at school, although i am very glad i did, it was a very harrowing experience for me. Although the outcome has lately not been a bad one with any church i have been to (since i have had the desire to go on my own) i still feel as if i am alienated from whatever body represents the ministry.

    The second point i wanted to make addresses your question on relational opportunities for this generation in church. Personally I’m excited about God, and faith, now more than ever. The thing that hits me the most is that outside of Launch i don’t know many Christians at all. This becomes a problem when i try to relate to anything a church has to offer in terms of personal relationships, groups, clubs, anything. Essentially i feel as if i am coming into the faith, past the point of vindication and still in the process of sanctification. So how can i relate to a group that the only thing i have spiritually in common with is Gods love? I feel like i am at a different phase of spirituality so i don’t allow many people to enter that, especially a church.

    My third point, and sorry this is long. Answering your last question, there are a lot of things the church can do to become desirable and exciting for my generation, but these vary so much from person to person. One thing i think a lot of non-Christian raised new found believers have in common is the feeling of acceptance. whether it be that you’re gay, tattooed, pierced, black, white, orange, autistic, or just weird i find that a lot of people search of unconditional acceptance and don’t find it easily.

    My last thought is for everyone in my position, looking for a way to be accepted within your faith to think, and look at yourself and let that faith that you may be fighting so hard to grow do the talking.
    Words from my favorite worship song;

    “This is the time to let yourself go,
    Lord pick me off the ground,
    You never said this would be simple,
    So pull me in and turn around.”

  7. Mike Friesen says:

    Great thoughts Jason,
    That spirituality is sacred and I support you in setting up boundaries while you are nurturing the new life that you are finding in it. Also, you are not alone here, I think you have a safe space at Launch to ask your questions and develop that space in you. Your thoughts are great.

    Thanks for the worship lyrics too.

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