“This is the Church writing to you. We have been trying to reach you for decades, although admittedly with little to no success. We have tried all kinds of methods to connect with you. We have dumped our traditional service, fired our organists and replaced them with a praise band leader and more edgy music. Still, you do not come. We have put away our suits and ties and dress more casually, yet you still do not come. We have moved our worship service out of the sanctuary into the gym, added mood lighting changed worship time to later on Sunday, and still, you do not come. We have abandoned the assigned Scripture readings for Sunday and replaced them with sermon series more in touch with today’s challenges and you know what happened? You still did not come. So, this is an open letter to you with a simple plea. Help us figure you out” (B. Keith Haney. “Voices”).  Haney, associated with the Missouri Synod, wrote this “letter” as an introduction to discussing a major problem of the current Christian church – disassociated young people and empty pews.  He began to dig around and found interesting facts on revheadpin.org based on research by the Barna Group.

The unchurched segment of millennials has increased from 44% to 52%, mirroring the larger cultural trend moving away from traditional church-going.  Nearly 59% of young people raised in the Christian church and faith walk away in the first 10 years of adult life.  When asked what HAS helped faith grow, the top 10 responses did not include the ‘church.’  “Instead, the most common drivers of spiritual growth, as identified by Millennials themselves, are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus” (Barna).  The future traditional church and attending a building seems a bit hopeless.  But Haney FINDS hope in his further look at Barna research:

  • one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds are practicing Christians;
  • a majority of Millennials claim to pray each week;
  • one-quarter say they’ve read the Bible or attended a religious small group this week,
  • and one in seven have volunteered at a church in the past seven days.

Asked why attend church, the top three answers were:

  • 54% said to “be closer to God”;
  • 31% said to “learn more about God”;
  • 16% said they see the church as “the hands and feet of God in the world”.

I have now successfully data-d everyone to doldrums.  “So what?”  We seek a new pastor, the MET process beginning, the formation of a job description to fit the needs we have here.  In all my looks and thinks since coming across these Haney ideas, the “do this, try that, change this, alter that, shorten this, lengthen that…” fall into the shadows of the number one need.  MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS.  One of our core values – how do we grow it?  A close and deep relationship between young and old in the church, per Barna, results in 59% of questioned millennials saying they would stay in that church.  A further point made, “the church needs to provide a vehicle to help Millennials navigate this strange new world of post-Christian values. So it is important that one of the ministry outcomes is to help today’s Millennials to develop discernment skills, especially when it comes to understanding and interpreting today’s culture”(Barna). 

For me, I believe the greatest point underlying all thoughts was today’s young generation, the technology, time, go-go driven folks, needs to have a relationship, a real and palpable connection with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  They WANT what WE HAVE.  We just need to figure out how to get it to them. 

And oh yea, it snowed, I made chill-smoke through my nostrils, I had blower blow back icicles, and I rediscovered the slickness of ice – which left a mark.  God bless our MET group as they clear the blocked avenues, melt the iciness, and set the foundation for a new Shepherd to come to us.

submitted by Dave Smith