I am kind of, it feels like, the token “under-30” at church at times. Not that I am the only under-30, I am just one of the more involved under-30s who appears at church on a fairly regular basis. By and large, however, my generation is dramatically under-represented in church, at least many of the ones I frequent. Many of our churches, especially in the mainline denominations, are struggling with numbers; churches are slowly (or not-so slowly) getting smaller and smaller as parishioners die with no one to replace them.
It is a sad state of affairs and it leads to the above question often being asked. As the apparent spokes-person for the “young people” at church, I often get asked variations of that question. My favourite version so far went something like this:
The Christmas bazaar is coming up in a few weekends, Gillian, I’d love to have you and some of your young friends help out at it. It would be a great way to get them to come to church.
I’m sorry, in what universe would I invite my friends to church to volunteer at a Christmas bazaar that amounts to little more than a giant rummage sale that serves lunch? I’m sure that is the best way to get more young people in church. If you can’t hear the sarcasm dripping off of my words, please reread that paragraph and insert sarcasm.
What, then, do we do? I have lots of unformulated and inarticulate ideas, but most of them revolve around one simple premise: stop trying. Stop trying to get young people into church. Instead, start going outside of church and hanging out with young people and start enjoying life with them. If they decide to come and check out your church, cool. If they haven’t, you’ve still made a new friend and you can both be blessed by your friendship.
If, however, you are like some people and like lists, I highly recommend this post by an American university chaplain. It was recommended to me by the blog of an English priest. It is worth the few minutes to click over and read, and I think that many churches need to implement it least some of her suggestions.