In my last post, I highlighted research that shows how our churches are struggling in reaching young people. In addition, many of our teenagers who do attend church will drop out when they hit college. The church is perceived as boring, hypocritical, judgmental, exclusive, and too political. So...what can we do? Is there any good news in these bleak numbers?
Well, many books and churches are showing a way forward. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Be honest and confess--young people are looking for a church and for leaders who are real, honest, and vulnerable. Christians need to model forgiveness...asking for it and giving it.
2. Increase Expectations--young people want to be challenged and they want to be a part of something that is worth their time. Young people need more than entertaining services. They need to be engaged in God's mission in the world.
3. Fruitful Dialogue--we can have open and honest discussions without being mean. We do not need to be apolitical. However, we need to be aware of whether or not our language comes off as demeaning or patronizing. Adults can be bad about demonizing the "other side" as if one cannot be a Christian and a democrat (or republican) at the same time. We can have convictions and opinions...but we also need a sense of humility and grace.
4. Love and Serve People--at the end of the day we do not transform people through legislation and debates. Currently Christians are known for being unlike Jesus; one of the best ways to shift that perception would be to love and serve those outside our church walls. This requires compassion, kindness, and strength. I think the negative perceptions that now exist are partly a symptom of a church that has lost its heart for those on the outside.
5. Follow and Love Jesus--no amount of cool worship services or amazing programs will suffice. It comes down to this: we must become Christlike again. We must be light and salt.
"We must commit to doing the hard work of recapturing Christianity's essence in our own lives. It's easy to point out the imperfections of others, but it takes more humility and grace to confront the faults in ourselves. Being Christian is hard work. Putting the needs of others above your own, loving your neighbor, doing good to those who would do evil to you, exercising humility, suffering with those less fortunate, and doing it all with a pure heart is nearly impossible. But it is Jesus's model and call."