Why should young Christ-followers stay in the church? This was a question I posed to Len Sweet, author, futurist, theologian. Actually, I asked "what should I say to my young Friends about this issue. To those who have been burned, betrayed, brow-beaten. People who think it would be easier to follow Christ by leaving the organized, institutional "Church."
Sweet said a few different things about this. The first response was pretty frank. He essentially said, people should stick with it because we're talking about a lot of resources. In ten or twenty years, as leadership naturally shifts to younger generations, we will have a lot of resources at our disposal to use in creative, courageous and compassionate ways. Building, budgets, properties, camps, schools, colleges, missions. I thought this was an interesting first response. Second, he said, young generations are taking the baton not only from previous generations but from a long history of the faithful saints. Since asking that question initially, I've been a bit haunted by that thought.
I didn't find those responses fully satisfactory. Would you? Let's work through a common scenario. You, as a young person, comes into a fairly established church. You are full of idealism, ideas, and an intuitive sense of how church "should" be. As you become more involved in church, and the more you "peek behind the curtain" the more disenchanted you become. You become increasingly concerned and disillusioned with conflicts, complacency and concretion. What do you do at this point? You've had your feelings hurt, ideas rejected, and just feel a bit out of place.
If you are like most people (maybe especially young people) you give up. It is maybe 1 person in a 100 who has both creativity and courage, dreams and determination. How many young people do you know who can hold their convictions and stay connected with those who fundamentally disagree with those convictions?
Sweet continued down this vain and may have overstated his case. Here's my paraphrase of Len Sweet:
If you were born before the year of 1978 (which marks the year of the first cell phone call) you are now an immigrant to this culture. If you were born after 78 you are a native. So, it used to be that we valued our youth for their energy, enthusiasm, and hope. And we valued our older folks for their wisdom. Now, the reality is that these roles are swapping. We need our Natives for their wisdom about the landscape and culture and perspective. We need our elders for their energy, enthusiasm and hope.
I don't know what you think about those ideas. I have mixed feelings. But most young people who are involved in the church have had those moments when "wisdom" feels like anything but. "We need to start our bus ministry back up." Sometimes an experience of success in one decade is an assurance of failure in the
I'll end this post with a top ten:
Top Ten Reasons for Young Christians to Stay in Church
10. Your perspective, contributions, and gifts are essential for the mission and community of your Church Family.
9. There are huge personal spiritual formation opportunities when we bump up against people who are different than us.
8. Inter-generational churches experience more fully the family of believers.
7. Potlucks: Grandmas make really good pies. I bring a can of olives.
6. There is a depth of heritage and tradition that is bigger than our own shallow tastes and preferences.
5. Church community is a cure for our own individuality.
4. The diversity of personalities, cultures, and generations helps us to see each others' blind spots and expand each others' worldviews.
3. If your church seems amateurish, irrelevant, hokey, antiquated, even boring - Good! You are curing yourself of the most dangerous threat to Christianity - consumerism.
2. Great sociological experiment: Where else can you be around so many different kinds of weird people?
1. Buttons were made to be pushed.