How to attract young people to your church
I often get questions from churches (and not just in our diocese either) that sound like this “how can we attract more young people?”
Well, thought I, sounds like a good thing to discuss in Connections this time, especially given last month’s article in the Tennessean (7/6/08 ) on young adults’ preferences in worship. So let’s take apart the statement and see if the answer lies within it somewhere.
“How can we attract more young people?” Well two questions pop into my head: (1) why do we want to attract them? And (2) what do we mean by attracting them?
See I think it all boils down to this word “attract.” What’s behind the question? Are there people in our church who feel a call to disciple the younger generation(s)? Is it a question of mission? Because mission as I understand it isn’t primarily about attraction, it’s about finding, seeking, and discipling.
Something’s been bothering me about the question of “attracting young people,” regardless of which of the several reasons is behind it.
The thing is, most of the people, and like I said, regardless of the wonderful motivation behind it, asking this question, want a program or solution to bring young people into their existing church structure.
Well, I think I’ve happened on the solution to attracting young people as I was musing on this.
Get out of the church.
That’s right leave.
Because you see, the church isn’t that building no matter how cute, historic, grand, beautiful, or whatever it may be. The building is an incidental. You are the church.
So go out and start taking the church—and the fantastic message of life in Jesus—to people you know.
Just live life in relationship with people, not from your church (gasp, I know).
Live life in relationship with people with no agenda. Share with them what excites you, hopefully Jesus is on the list, if not, perhaps you should start by doing a little soul searching and having a few in depth Jesus-times yourself.
As you share your life with people, including how you live in relationship with Jesus, they might get interested. Or they might not. But at least they won’t be in the very large category of people that don’t know a single Christian.
Some statistics for you.
The number of non-Christians a person knows has an inverse relationship with the length of time that person has been a Christian (Dan Kimball. They like Jesus but not the Church. Zondervan, 2007). So the most mature Christians, who should be out there making disciples, don’t know any non-Christians. Hmmm…
The average number of conversions per 100 people in mainline denomination per year is… Are you ready?
And those non-mainline folks, their rate of conversion is actually better. And they wouldn’t be surprised to hear that. But wait, what is it?
One point seven. Yup, nearly double, but still, per one hundred? sort of pitiful (Lyle Shaller. From Geography to Affinity. Abingdon Press, 2003.).
People, our entire mission as the church is to make disciples.
And we’re failing! Churches that are growing are mainly getting Christians from other churches.
It’s a giant shell game of “find the Christians.”
So what we’ve been doing, isn’t working. People will no longer “come and see.”
Get out of the church. Get into the world.
It’s time we tried out that whole “salt and light” thing again.
Extra: Do young people prefer non-traditional ways of worship like the Tennessean claimed? I think no. In fact, I think our rich Anglican tradition gives us a leg up on ministry with young people, but I’m out of space, we’ll have to explore that later!
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