It is widely believed that teens and twenty-somethings have turned away from the church for one or more of the following reasons:
- They find it boring.
- They can’t relate to the preaching.
- They don’t like the music.
- They have short attention spans.
- They feel that they don’t fit in.
While all these things may contribute to the younger generation’s aversion to the church, I believe there is more to it than a desire for relevance, acceptance, and an eight-piece double bass drum set.
According to a study I read recently, do you know what it is that the younger generation most wants to see in today’s church? Adults who are real.
You see, young people can spot a fake a mile away. And what they desire most in God's church are adults who are the real deal, who are the same outside of church than they are inside, who are honest about their problems and how they are affected by them.
Especially in today’s world, with the disintegration of the family, young people need a safe haven where they can be themselves; where they can share struggles, ask questions, and admit fears. But for many people—young and old alike—the church is the least safe place to be vulnerable.
In my ministry, I have been blessed to work with a number of recovering addicts, many of whom grew up in the church. Their mantra is the same. They have found more grace, love, and acceptance in 12-step groups than they did in God’s church.
Some time ago, I came across a guy I had gone to high school with. He was raised in a church-going family, but took a left turn when he entered his teen years. Last I had heard he wasn’t exactly walking close to the Lord. Imagine my surprise when our paths crossed years later and I heard him openly and excitedly sharing his newly-ignited faith. I couldn’t help but acknowledge the difference I saw in him and ask, “What church did you get plugged into?”
I was totally unprepared for his response. He laughed and said, “I didn’t find Christ in the church. I found Him in A.A.!”
As a defender of God’s church, I was initially offended by his response. But after he explained, I became challenged by it.
He viewed A.A. as a safe place, where everyone is on a level playing field; a place where sinners can openly acknowledge their shortcomings without fear of being judged; a place where pretending and pride are not tolerated, where support and encouragement flows freely.
I immediately realized that is not a description of today’s church.
I recognize that there are many congregations out there who are getting it right. If you belong to such a church community, you are blessed. But if your church is not worthy of the adjectives loving, forgiving, grace-filled, and accepting, I pray that change would begin with you.
It’s my hunch that God’s original design for the church was that it more resemble an A.A. meeting than what it has become today.