Saturday, October 17, 2009

Should the Church try new and different things to reach a new generation?

One of my favorite magazines is Leadership Journal. I talked a little bit here about what I like about it. There were several things in the Summer 2009 issue that caught my attention and I thought I would blog about them.

This particular issue looked at "iGens," the twenty-somethings. This is not my generation. I am part of Gen-X. I can remember days before VCRs and microwaves, cable TV and Atari. I remember my Algebra 2 teacher in 9th grade talking to us about computers and floppy discs that were about 5 inches across, and actually "floppy." The iGens have grown up in a completely different culture - they don't know life without personal computers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.

Question 1: Should the Church try new and different things to reach the "iGens?" or should the Church stay on message and trust that the truth of Christ will impact this new generation as it has the ones that have come before?

[Hey - There is an interesting article here about what has been happening with Gen X ministries in the last few years to help with the discussion.]

1 comment:

  1. This is a question that our church seems to be asking all the time; how to connect with the younger generations who seem to be pulled in all kinds of directions. I really can only speak for 'mainline' Protestant denominations as they are ones which I am most familiar (I belong to ELCA Lutheran). We are in serious decline, having dropped 20% of our baptized membership since 1990.

    As you may have read recently, the ELCA recently elected to allow local congregations the opportunity to call LGBT pastors to the pulpit. This has rattled many of our traditional 'conservative' members and has threatened to splinter the organization, similar to how the Episcopal church was splintered a few years ago. The core of the argument of those has been similar to what you have said, that we are 'caving in' to popular society and not remaining true to our creeds, confessions and Holy Scriptures. I don't need to tell you that the youth of today are exposed to so much more diversity than we were, primarily via the Internet. The more points of view, the greater the chance that some will conflict with traditional Christian values.

    Further, as a Sunday School teacher, I have noticed some VERY poor examples being set by my kids' parents as to the importance of attending church, etc. Growing up, my parents made it clear to me that attending church as well as CCD (Catholic 'Sunday School') was not only important, but MANDATORY, on par with attending 'regular' school. I did not like it, I grumbled a lot about it, but as an adult, in retrospect, the experience was invaluable as I had no idea at the time of the values, the Christian message, and the Good News that was being imparted to me ever-so-subtly. I try to stress to kids and parents that lessons taught in Sunday School are to be studied all week, with designated Bible readings for families to share together. Many times, the worksheet I provide gets instantly tossed in the garbage on the way out the door, by PARENTS. How am I supposed to compete with that sort of message? Also, I often see that children are 'dropped off' at Sunday School while parents go home, only to see them picked up just as suddenly afterwards, not bothering to stay for worship. Much of what I teach corresponds with the readings of the day in worship, by design. Last week, we presented Bibles to our 2nd graders, an annual tradition. Out of 10 2nd graders, only TWO showed up, despite the families being given ample notice. Something is very different than the way that I knew things to be growing up.

    By new and different things I assume you mean technology, for example? While 'evangelical' Christian denominations tend to do a better job of using technology in worship with praise bands, Power Point hymn lyrics on a screen, we're getting better. I really don't want to sound fuddy-duddy, but my general opinion of using technology in worship is that it tends to be more of a distraction than a contribution. I'm sure there's good examples of tasteful and seamless uses of technology in worship out there, but in most all I have seen, its use feels like "technology for technology's sake," not for any meaningful contribution to worship. Again, I feel a lot of times that I'm a fuddy-duddy in this matter, so maybe I'm part of the problem.

    I don't know what it all means..perhaps our curriculum materials, worship and denomination truly is out of touch with what people need these days. I do know that all that God has revealed to me in my lifetime is good, and should this decline continue and our church take a different structure, Ericka and I will be ready to accept these wholesale changes.

    I do appreciate your stroll down memory lane, however, and can empathize with you as to how much more complicated life is for the youth of the 21st Century than how we had it. Further, parenting in this era seems to have challenges no other generation has faced before, and I really admire the struggles that parents have in this day and age