Yahoo! News posted a story on Tuesday about why teens and young adults are leaving (or not returning to) church. Actually very little of it is new. It has been building. Here are several of the comments from the article:
* Churches use outdated methods of Sunday School, rotating the same Bible stories year-in and year-out without relating the morals to daily living. When kids want to know why someone like Gabrielle Giffords was shot, they don't need another lesson on Noah's Ark. (Who remembers flannelgraphs?)Okay, maybe I'm being a little harsh. I have been through more ups and downs of "youth ministry" in the past 45+ years than I care to remember. I have been part of the generation that wanted "relevance" and then discovered "ancient-future" and is now into a "new monasticism." Meanwhile the average every day church down the street or across town is feeling lost.
* Teens can only eat so much pizza at church social events before they see through this thinly veiled attempt at keeping them occupied and out of trouble. (Faith-based baby-sitting for teenagers to keep them "off-the-street" and away from "bad people.")
* Those surveyed say there aren't enough good reasons given for holding Bible beliefs other than "the preacher says so..." or "your parents say so." (Sorry. No wrestling with the questions, let alone some difficult answers.)
* Young people can see that the Church in general hasn't yet been able to conquer racial reconciliation, domestic abuse and the rampant church divorce rate...sometimes in their own families. (And we don't even talk about the issues here, either. And don't forget addiction, alcoholism, and...)
* Older generations won't blend a moderate amount of contemporary music with traditional hymns, to show young people that newer ideas are respected. (Why can't they sing like we used to? Or like we had to?)
* Or, the Church feels pressured to impress their younger members with new technological avenues. So they discard all the old hymns that were written out of peoples' struggles with life, pride and suffering. Thus, the newer generations don't hear about how God can help them through hard times. (How can I be found if I don't admit I was ever lost or learn to see if I don't even admit I'm blind?)
There are no easy answer, I have come to believe. The easiest answer is to admit there is no ONE answer. What works at St. What's-His-Name Church won't work at the Feel-Good-With-God Church. Neither of them will work with the "Let's-Get-Down-With-God Church" or the "St. Tradition Church." As much as I wrestle with all these the answer is to find what touches our souls- and the souls of our families and friends.
Or is it? To be honest, I get very lost in all this. I am getting to a point where I think Fred Craddock, super-preacher and professor, was right. The best way to preach the Gospel is to allow it to be overheard as we speak it ourselves. Then to use words if necessary, as has often been said.
Or is it?
On and on we can go. So let's just stop and say all of the above is true, none of it is the answer, and perhaps all we can do is to follow the words of Micah:
what does the Lord require of you
- but to do justice,
- and to love kindness,
- and to walk humbly with your God?