Fear Of Whales

Archive for the ‘Millennials’ Category

Church Usefulness Over Time

without comments

proportionaldirectTo catch you up, I’ve spent the last three months at Saint Luke’s Baptist Hospital working as a Chaplain as part of a training program to develop leaders in pastoral care. It provided a lot of insight into the world of spiritual care outside the church, particularly among those people who frequent hospitals, who tend to be the elderly.

Until I got to the hospital I had never considered that Older people tend to go to church more because church attendance is much more practical for them. It meets an urgent need. Churches are great to provide a low maintenance community, visitors when sick, or provide with advice for the end of parishioners lives. But young people are more worried about meeting members of the opposite sex, and succeeding in business, for which church just isn’t what it used to be.

Everybody knows that people get more religious as they get older. But nobody has ever been able to offer a great reason why. The prevailing theory I had heard previously is that they were worried about their own death and wanted to get salvation squared away. I’m not buying it. The whole repentance/heaven focus is concentrated in certain Christian traditions, and if this were true, you would expect to see more octogenarians in those churches. Instead almost the opposite is the case, turn-or-burn churches get more middle aged clientele, and older believers congregate (pun totally intended) in the mainline churches especially.

Everybody knows that the millennial are not coming to church as much as other groups. And there are a million unsatisfactory theories about that, but the vast majority assume that church attendance is correlated directly with religious sincerity. And I am not convinced.

Not all of the people I met in their 80s and 90s this summer were very religious. Few of them read the Bible on a regular basis, and virtually none of them (save a retired pastor or two) knew very much about theology, or did very much on service or mission. Almost all of them went to church.

And when I met an elderly patient that did not attend church regularly, my response was concern. I was not concerned because they were risking hellfire, or because they were lacking sound Biblical teaching. I was concerned because there would be nobody outside their family (if they had any) to help them through these difficult years. Where were they going regularly to see people. Who would notice when they were gone? Who would speak at their funeral. Had they even though about these sorts of questions?

I didn’t meet many 20-something in the hospital for obvious reasons, but those I did meet were about as religious as their elders. Their church attendance was much lower. They were in sports, or startups, or projects. They had clubs and leagues, they were involved in causes, and sought out mentors. They went about meeting many of the practical needs the church provides (those needs other than the gospel) in other ways.

I think this should impact our ecclesiology. I think we need to think, and think carefully about how much we want church to fill a practical need, even for those not sold on it’s message, and then build our communities to match. But it is too early for me to say how and in which direction. You figure it out and tell me

Written by admin

August 26th, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Newsletter Article

without comments

This is an article I wrote for the newsletter at the church I used to work at. It was published, in a modified form. Now that I have this audience I thought I’d share it with you. In case you can’t tell or didn’t know, I was the Youth Pastor of a small youth group on the grounds, and for a while we had youth coming and hanging out on the campus, this resulted in some graffiti,and the sprinklers having been left on one night. So older congregants began telling anyone young they saw to leave and quit causing trouble. This was my response.

I had the opportunity this past month to meet some of the young people who have been hanging out in our prayer garden. I have a report for you that should be very disturbing.

They said that young people don’t often come around anymore, they used to, but the bench has been removed and the hedge has been trimmed, and they don’t feel “safe” here any longer.

One young man expressed to me that he knew one of the vandals, didn’t think highly of him, and would have liked to step in if he could have, another expressed that nobody who came around was a criminal, so much as troublemaker. We’re dealing with hooligans, seeking independence from their parents through anti parental activities.

I told them we had a couch and an air conditioned youth room, they were rather interested in that. I talked to them about our mission, told them if there was any way to bless them I would be interested to hear it, because this was a place where we served Jesus the Christ and we were interested in sharing his love in non-judgmental ways.. and the news took a turn for the worse

“People here don’t trust us”, they said, “they don’t seem to want us around”. “When we’re approached people assume we are going to destroy something”. “One kind act could do a lot.”

I’m Livid!

I don’t know if it is coming across without tone of voice but I am very very angry at our church right now. Because I am here, attempting to reach the youth of La Mirada, and I’m not sure that’s something this church is actually willing to do!

Yes, I’m aware that there has been some vandalism, that it has cost our church time and money, I know there have been nefarious activities at this campus. If we are successful in reaching the well-meaning youth, we will probably attract troublemakers too, problems will almost certainly increase, and maybe one of those troublemakers will have his or her heart changed for Christ. That is the business I’m in. That we’re in…I hope.

So It’s time to make a choice. Do you want this to be a place that is open and welcoming to people who are different from you or not? Because you have to understand that if you do it is going to mean sacrifice, picking up the cross and following Jesus means moving out of our comfort zones and opening ourselves up to problems, but it also means the real possibility of affecting people’s lives.

And if not we will earn the opportunity to live and have church in the manner to which we have become accustomed for a while longer, but I warn you, if we do that this church will not be empowered through any gospel that is true, and it will wither, and it will die!

If we proceed down the second path, the rest of my interaction here will be entirely missional. Because if that’s how we do things then we need Jesus

As I finished taking with the unchurched youth, quite a crowd had gathered, and one mentioned it was hot. I left them with a couple bottles of soda, a pitcher of water and some paper cups.

What will you do?

Matthew 25:35

Written by RyanGaffney

October 16th, 2010 at 12:01 am