We are in the first full week of Lent. It is a time for intense introspection and for watching where and how the Spirit is moving today. For this reason, I want to direct you to this blog post asking why millennials are not attending church.
It doesn't beat around the bush. It addresses one of the issues I have struggled with in my love/hate relationship with the way children's and youth ministry has been done for many years. I have felt since I was young that inter-generational ministry is of utmost importance. The majority of congregations simply don't know how to do this anymore. I have heard our elders often wonder why the sanctuary isn't sacred to the younger generations. It may partially be because, as the blog author reminds us, children and youth have usually been found in the basement of the building while the adults do church in their own way in the sanctuary.
The future isn't as bleak as it appears in the aforementioned post, though. Through Sunday School, VBS and Children's Church, our younger generations have learned to connect with the Divine through music, movement, nature, creative endeavors and outreach mission trips. This means that people around my age bracket are more likely to experience and express our spirituality in our everyday life, not just on Sunday mornings. It does have the downside that we often do not really feel like we "fit in" on Sunday morning in a sanctuary or church building. The question I think our congregations really need to consider is not "why aren't millennials coming to our church?" but instead "how are millennials connecting with the Divine, with other people and with the rest of creation?"
Perhaps, when we consider this, we may not be so hopeless when we look at the demographics of our church attendance. It may be helpful for us to consider that through the Gen-X, Millennial and younger generations, God is at work in a different way than has been seen in recent history. Belief in God is not absent, nor is spirituality lacking. What our congregations might want to ask is how we can learn from our younger generations. What might the Beloved have to show us through the ways our younger generations are doing "church"?
Our congregational leaders are realizing that without the funding of the younger folks, our buildings may crumble. They may be sold or downsized or shared. But the truth of the matter is, church has never been about the building. It is about the people. Perhaps, through the younger generations, we are being reminded of Emmanuel -- the Presence of God is in our midst, in our everyday lives, in our hearts. The church building and the structured organization may seem to unravel in the coming years, but the truth is Church will remain, for Church is the people of God revealing Christ's love to the world.
Here in the theological zombie realm, we have been working on remembering who we are and why we are here. This is the fundamental question that we must ask if we are to be infused with new life. Although it is a question that we all must ask ourselves individually, it is an essential question for the group that is called the Church. Who are we? What is our calling? How is the Beloved working through us in the world today?
Take heart, dear ones. This is not the end. It is simply the birthing pangs of a new creation being infused with the Breath of the Holy Spirit. The Church is remembering who we are called to be.
The American church is obsessed with reaching millennials. Well, at least we are obsessed with talking about it. I’m not entirely convinced we really want to reach them, or…