Friday, May 1, 2009

My Own Op-ED--Cure?

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ed Lewis. Therefore, I am trusting that when I didn't agree with his editorial, he would not be offended if I attempted to interact about it.

My previous article explained that while Ed is usually a very optimistic man, his editorial did not seem very hopeful for the church. He stated that the church is losing 70% of the young people we once had (a statistic I believe can be misleading). He also stated that most "Boomers" are becoming "detached." In essence, they want to be served, rather than serve. (I did not address this issue in my last article, for Ed offers no statistics to make this claim, but merely throws it out. There wasn't much to refute, since it just seems to be a personal observation. Perhaps it's true on a global scale? I have no idea.)

Near the end of his article, Ed offers these 5 suggestions:

    1. Make it easy for young and old to pray together. Don’t pray for the young: pray with them on occasion.
    2. Make the church a “family.” Ask older people to help in children’s ministries. Offer regular, brief interviews in Sunday School. Let youth hear stories of older people in the church. (Then have the youth pray for the older person.) Ask adult classes (ABFs) to interview young people regularly. Learn names. Get to know the young.
    3. Read books like Gordon MacDonald’s, Who Stole My Church? Or...
    4. Listen to people like Chuck Bomar who say we must open homes to the younger generation. Students who go away to college must be followed up. (Did he find a mentor? A good church? If not, send someone there to help him!)
    5. Let the church strengthen relationships. Work on it! Fellowship isn’t just an add-on; it’s crucial. It’s family! Program for it. Learn names. Connect. Play together. Pray together. Do projects together. Praise together.
None of the above things are wrong. They are somewhat insufficient, however. As I've mentioned before, Ed does not consider himself to be a papal authority (although I think he'd look cool in the hat!). I'm sure this list wasn't meant to be conclusive, and if a church attempted to adopt some of these things, I imagine it could possibly help a bit. However, just consider the following:

If your "Boomers" aren't wanting to serve, getting items #1, #2 & #5 to work are going to be quite difficult. How are we assessing that "Boomers" don't want to be involved? Probably because we've already asked them, and they've said no. Therefore, simply prodding them to stay involved will probably only work for a temporary period and has the potential to simply embitter them more.

I absolutely love Chuck Bomar's advise to stay connected to your students. Too many ministries operate on a "out of sight, out of mind" basis. Follow up is important. However, here is my problem. I have a student at MIT. I have another at West Point (and another joining him there this summer). I have a young woman in our church moving to Alamo, California. We're a small, rural community where most of our young people move away. How do I plug them into a "good church" when I know nothing of their new area? Most of the time, a recommendation of a "good church" comes from someone who doesn't even really know your own church, thus they don't know the passions that would make the transition easy. I can tell you this, our church budget can't allow for staff and elders to make scouting trips so we can help them find good churches.

And as for MacDonald's, Who Stole My Church? Well the "Boomer" generation ought to prove its basic premise is lacking. The last couple decades have been spent making the church everything the "Boomer" could ever want only to result in them being bored, detached and uninterested in ministry. Like BurgerKing, catering the church to their desires simply fed their appetite "to have it your way." Eventually, the church can't give someone everything they want and they become dissatisfied. If we seek to again revamp the church simply to meet the desires of the next generation, we will find them eventually bored and dissatisfied too. Are many of the changes MacDonald suggests bad? Not really. Are they enough? Not at all.

As I review these "solutions," I become a little overwhelmed. They can seem contradictory, and at times like they are simply calling us to keep trying the same things, even though they haven't been working. It makes sense then that ministry would seem to be a struggle and something that is very complicated. We strive to reach the young, but they are leaving because we have catered to the "Boomer." But the "Boomer" is getting frustrated and thinking of leaving because of changes we may be making in order to reach the young generation which has already left. I've never liked merry-go-rounds, and staying in this mindset can pretty quickly lead to me "losing my Whopper®."

However, Ed ends his editorial with: I feel for the church leaders...but let's do something to change it. It's possible.

I wouldn't bother writing these posts if I did not agree. However, I plan to unpack a slightly overlooked solution starting Monday...

1 comment:

Margaret said...

It's kind of like raising children- the more you attempt to give them what they think they want, the more unsatisfied they are. We make everything so complicated, including church. Contentment comes from the working of the Spirit in the heart; adding more "fun" activities, meeting felt needs, producing gimmicks and entertainment, etc. does not create satisfied church members. Social "Christians" won't ever get enough; whatever the church introduces to meet their needs, they will only want more. Like you said, a merry-go-round, which only ends up leaving me dizzy and nauseated.