Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Growing Churches Reach Young Families

       Growing Churches Reach Young Families
April 3rd, 2018

It is a statistical fact that growing churches reach young families. That really isn’t anything new. In fact, growing churches have reached young families as long as there have been growing churches. What is new is the question of how. The tactics for reaching young families are and always have been in a state of flux. What worked 50 or 100 years ago will not work today. Whether we like it or not our world is always changing and part of that has to do with the fact that the younger generations never think and operate exactly as their forebears did. That can be very frustrating for those of us who qualify for the twenty five cent senior coffee at McDonald’s. 
We senior citizen types have always had a tendency to look down our noses at the younger generation, shake our collective heads and ask ourselves disapprovingly what our world is coming to. A recent example is the Tide Pod Challenge. Apparently some kids thought it would be cool to dare each other to chew up Tide Pods and then spew the multi colored liquids out of their mouths. I can’t tell you how many times in recent days I’ve heard members of my generation clicking their tongues and pointing to this fad as the latest example of how dumb the younger generation is. Let us be clear. Eating laundry detergent is dumb. But every generation has its own version of similar dumbness. Mumbly Peg anyone (don’t ask)? Or how about gold fish swallowing? I never tried it, I swear. Let us also be clear that it is unfair to indict an entire generation for the foolishness of the minority. Most of the young people I know are smart enough not to eat Tide Pods. As a matter of fact, some of the smartest people I know are under age 30. I only wish my I.Q. was as high as theirs.
Not only are they smart, the younger generation has an awful lot to teach the rest of us if we are willing to listen. That is especially true in the church although, unfortunately, the church is one of the last institutions to ever allow young people to lead the way. We say we want more young people in the church but most churches are completely unwilling to give up the old ways and traditions and be led by the younger generation, which helps to explain why so many churches are stuck in a rut and unable to get any traction. Here is a fact. The millennial generation is taking over the world, like it or not. 
Demographers disagree on the exact age range of the so-called millennial generation but the beginning point runs anywhere from the middle 1970s to the early 1980s. That means that the older millennials are somewhere between about 35 and 40 years old. These people are, for the most part, stable and established in their careers and have teenaged children at home. The youngest of the millennials were born in the late 1990s and are now in college or grad school or, in many cases, embarking on new careers and beginning to raise families of their own. The baby boom generation (my generation), on the other hand, is either retired or nearing retirement.  We’re dying off at an alarming rate. If we haven’t already, we will soon be handing off the baton of leadership to the millennials, willingly or otherwise. Coming quickly on the heels of the millennial generation is Generation Z, many of whom are just now leaving high school and going off to college. We are actually fortunate enough to have some of these people stepping into leadership in our church and they bring extraordinary gifts for ministry to the table. Thank God for them.
When I came to CCC in 2007 the congregation and its leadership was elderly. The pastoral nominating committee made it clear that one of the things they wanted me to do was help the church find ways to reach more young families. It has been a struggle but we are finally getting there. Today, only a few of our leaders (myself included) are 60 years old or older. The rest of them are millennials and younger. That puts us in a very good position to reach young families for Christ if only we will trust their leadership. My advice to my fellow senior citizens in the church? Roll with it. You wanted young people to take responsibility and you got your wish. Relax. Trust in the wisdom of the younger generations and, more than that, trust in the Christ who has called them into positions of leadership in His church. We are not being pushed aside. We are only being asked to loosen our grip on the reigns.