As I sat in Bible study, I found myself feeling a bit guilty (even though I had shown up). A few of the women had really tried to get a younger crowd into Bible study. They'd even arranged babysitters to be at the church. And I've noticed we also don't have very many younger people who attend church on Sundays (and, by younger, I basically mean ages 15 - 45, give or take a few years... I myself fall within this group).
So today, as I was watering my in-laws garden, I sat on their porch with a notebook, trying to come up with ideas on how to appeal to that younger crowd. I pulled out my reading from Bible study. I looked at my scribbled notes.
"Don't have enough generations involved in the church"
"What's needed?! What's lacking?!"
"Why so many 'Spiritual but not Religious'?"
"What does younger crowd want?"
My brain just kept spinning. I had been one of those "Spiritual but not Religious" up until recently. Why? Where had the church failed me? Had it? Well, it had. And it still does although I do try to give it chances.
I was about to give up, when my eyes suddenly caught sight of a line in the lesson. The lesson was discussing when Jesus sent his disciples out in Luke 9 (and also in Mark 6, and I think in Matthew as well...). The paragraph read:
"In all three versions of the story we've looked at in this study, we see that Jesus doesn't spend any time on the disciples' fears or protests or smart-aleck remarks about tons of bread. He simple says, 'Show me what you have'." (gather Magazine, August 2013)
Show me what you have.
That's the secret right there. Show me what you have.
I spent many years in marketing, and also did some staff trainings. And in both arenas, I learned that to successfully get people to do your bidding, you have to be able to appeal to that question inside them "What's in it for me." And, in my trying to figure out how to bring my age group into the church, I was using that same thought process. But, the problem is, we already know what's in it for us when it comes to church.
In our minds, the church has nothing to offer us. Harsh? Definitely. True? Of course not. But we tend to believe so. I thought this for years. I mean, think about it... what does a church offer?
Fellowship? Our age group would argue you can get just as good fellowship anywhere else. Church isn't needed for that. Especially when you consider that most of the people who go to church are elderly, or those who marginalize us, or those snobs with their noses in the air, or so on and so forth.
Forgiveness, prayer? Again, a church is not needed for this.
Education? Seriously? With everything available online if we really, truly want to learn about God?
Because of this, the church is simply not relevant in the minds of 15-45 year olds. And, if you really think about it... if the church was relevant and desired, they'd be seeking it out - not the other way around. The truth of the matter is, the church needs them, not the other way around. We, the church, need the different age groups and talents and ideas.
Show me what you have!
We should be asking this of these young people. We should be asking them to show us what they can offer our church. We should be telling them - we need your talent. We need you. Please show us how you can help strengthen us.
And what they have could be any multitude of things... maybe they can sing, or play piano (or other instrument), during service. Maybe they can lead a choir. Maybe they write their own music/hymns, or they write. Enjoy reading scripture aloud? Paint? Teach? Enjoy watching younger children? Perhaps they could start a craft group, or scrapbooking club, within the church. Or maybe they quilt.
There are so many different talents... we need to find out what they've got and utilize them. That's the second part of this - we cannot squash their ideas. If several of them think having a choir would be beneficial, and they want to join this choir... if the ladies who attend church every Sunday, and go to every Bible study, decide that because we've never had a choir, we shouldn't start one now... well, if we do this, we just lost all those young people... again.
If we have a few who say they think having a Bible study outside the church (a park, bar, restaurant, someone's living room, etc) would make them more willing to come - don't say "nope, we have a perfectly fine church. And we don't need to start a second Bible study." In doing so, you again have just lost those young people... again.
My age group is more than willing - we're even excited - to show you what we have to offer you. But if you shoot us down, we're going to go back to being happily "Spiritual but not religious". But if you put a little confidence in us... if you said "I know you can do this... please do it for our church"... you'd be amazed, I think, at how we do come through.
****Edit (8/18/2013)**** due to comments received in regards to this post, I have created a part two to clarify a bit better. Please also read "It's Not About Showing What They Have?"