Posts Tagged ‘leaving the church’

We Are Here Now, But Where Are We Going?

I’m a new pastor, I’ve never made a secret out of the idea that I’m the new guy…and I’m new at this.  I was ordained on Father’s Day, just a few months ago. I started my first call right after Independence Day which puts me just short of the 2 month mark of this whole thing.

That being said, I’m not new to life in general. They say the first third (as in first third of life) ends right about 30-33. I’m 34. Darn it, I guess I’m not a kid anymore am I?

All sarcasm aside, one of the things I’ve been doing in my new call is getting to know the people through Cottage Meetings. A couple of hours in the home of a member, sitting down with about 7-12 members, letting them get to know me. Also, letting them give feedback on what they’d like to see happen in the congregation and the community.

So far, I’ve seen a trend emerge. Most of the people coming are retirement age, or getting close to it. There have been a couple of middle aged families, and I’ve had one couple attend that are in their mid-20’s with a new baby, but they’ve been the exception so far. When I’ve posed the question of “What would you like to see happen in the future?” I’ve heard the same thing time after time. “We need to get our youth involved again. We used to have such great stuff for them, and we need it again.”

My first thought…absolutely…I agree. As a young person that has remained involved in the church from college on (though admittedly the annoyed kid that walked away from the church all the way through high school), I understand the issue that many of my peers have not remained involved, or were never involved in the first place. It saddens me…but its also the reality.

One of the (MANY) books that I had to read in Seminary is entitled We Are Here Now by Patrick Keifert (amazon link for the book here). This book encourages us to be realistic when we take a look at ourselves to see just what is our reality? We can’t possibly know how to move forward as a church (either the church as a whole or individual congregations) if we don’t know where we are starting.  The key is not to dream about where we’d like to go and get stuck in the notion of “if we were just in that situation, then we could move forward.”

Sorry folks…that’s not reality, so let’s stop for a minute, look down, and see just where our feet are standing.

The sad reality is that young people are leaving the church in record numbers. I stumbled across a blog today that offers what I consider to be a pretty honest and candid look into why so many young people are leaving.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/

Please read it.

Self admitted, I hate the phrase “church of the future.” As in, our children and our youth are the church of the future.  I cringe whenever I hear it. When I hear it I feel my personal BS meter red-line.

If we continue to think of our young people as the church of the future and neglect them or treat them like second class citizens in the here and now…which I’m sorry to say happens in a lot of congregations that I’ve seen…then there isn’t going to be a church in the future, because when we die (and rest assured that we will at some point) then there isn’t going to be church anymore because the next generation won’t be here to continue it.

And while I think it is important to offer programming for our youth as a way to engage them, I do NOT think that it is the only solution. Nor do I think that hiring a 30-something pastor with a young family is going to automatically bring in the young people.

The notion that I got from this article on why millennials are leaving is that they want some authenticity. They want to know that the church isn’t a place where behavior is dictated ahead of time. They want to know that the church is a place that can not only handle questions of faith, but welcomes questioning OF faith. They want to know that the church is a place that’s safe for everyone…and that’s accepting of everyone, even those people that don’t have it all figured out yet.

You know what, I might be a little bit more of a millennial that I realized, because that describes a lot of my thoughts too.

Yes I love God. Yes I believe that Jesus died for my sins and without His sacrifice I am condemned. I do believe that…but I’ve got a lot of questions too. I don’t have all the answers…but I am excited to engage with the questions…and I rest easy in the faith that Jesus’ sacrifice was big enough to overcome the mistakes that I make, both in my life and in my ministry.

And it is my hope that the congregation that I have been called to serve embraces the idea that we are all in this together. We may not know where we are going? We may not know where God is leading us in the world today. We may not know what the “church of the future” looks like (may not nothing…we flat out don’t know), but if we are all willing to open up to one another regardless of age (or race, or demographic, etc, etc, etc) and see that God can use all of us and any of us to teach one another, then we stand a pretty good chance of learning.