bonoiconI was talking with some church folks the other day who noticed that there seems to be a gap in their church demographics between 20 and 30 years old.  They asked me (as if I’d know) what to do about it.

Over at TribalChurch.org, Carol writes about the this generational gap:

When I look at things generationally, I realize that I am part of Generation X. On the whole, many of us were not and are not joiners. Just about every social construct, from political parties to church, used to decry the fact that we weren’t engaged enough.

There was a huge drop-off. I think, partly, because people were used to the large number of Boomers, and we are a much smaller generation. So, if organizations grew a lot because young Boomers were joining them, there was going to be a downturn in the numbers when Gen X came of age, because there are simply not as many of us.

And, because, as I mentioned, we’re not joiners. Many of us are pretty cynical. And we’re very innovative. So, often, we would rather start something than join something.

Yet, I see something different happening with the college students I work with. One of them recently asked if we could start a Protestant Club. I tried to stifle my shock when she said it, and I was very enthusiastic in my affirmative response, but in my head I was thinking: Really? A Protestant Club? I would never… I am so out of touch.

The truth is there is a shift with Generation Y, or the Millennials. They like joining things and they are much more politically active.

In our congregation, I cannot help but notice that people are really excited about joining the church. Even people who are my age. It usually takes them a lot longer to decide to join, and it’s more of an internal wrestling match. And I have a lot of conversations with people who “really don’t like organized religion.” And we have even had people who cross their fingers or prepare written statement clarifying what they mean by some of the affirmations of joining. But most really like to do it.”

I see similar trends in our congregation.  Often I tell these folk to ‘make themselves at home.’  We give them envelopes, put them on the mailing list, but it takes a while for them to join.  It isn’t that younger folks are not interested in Church.  They are. It’s just that they are not interested in church like my boomer generation is interested.  We’ve spent our whole lives maintaining the institutions and systems our parents and grandparents initiated.  My younger brothers and sisters just are not that into Roberts Rules of Order, or bureaucracy in general.  They are interested in doing something.  They are interested in living out their faith, so just don’t scare them away by asking them to be on a committee.  Ask them to be part of something.  Or, if you want a real scare…turn ’em loose.

I really think that these younger folk see church as something organic, alive, and active; not at all like a club or a society.

LutheranChick writes: Our pastor says that he wants to gradually move people out of the mindset that “church” is a one-hour event that happens on Sunday mornings and holidays; that “church,” that Christ’s body in the world, is happening all the time when we serve as Christ for one another. In this way, Christ will come alive for the people in our neighborhood, whether they’re members of our congregation or not.

I once rather boldly suggested to some of the ‘old guard’ that they needed to help us change, or when they were gone, we’d change anyway.  I am not worried about the church dying, but I am worried we might be missing a window for some exciting transformation.

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