The year is 1980. High school dropout rates are epidemic. I’ve got a solution I think will work. Let’s make school fun so that maybe we can reach these kids that are leaving and never coming back.
These kids are just bored. It’s our fault, really.
Let’s stop requiring that they learn anything they don’t want to learn.
Let’s put one of those weird Taco Bell/KFC combos in the cafeteria. Yes, they might get fat, but at least they’ll be happy. Happiness is better than health, that’s what I always say.
No more PE. They might decide all the running and climbing and lifting takes too much effort and decide to stay home.
No more fine arts. Who needs fine arts? They have their own art, anyway. It’s on their cassette tapes and it’s hanging on the walls of their rooms. Michael Jackson is really the Mozart of their day, anyway. We just don’t understand it because we’re old. They know better! Get with the times.
Biology lab sucks.
Dress codes suck.
Being silent sucks.
Let’s let them read Sports Illustrated and Cosmo, instead of Things Fall Apart or The Odyssey or The Catcher in the Rye. Tough concepts might scare them off. They need to read things they can understand at face value.
Let’s stop teaching them how to think critically. Let’s lop off the upper levels of the good old Bloom’s Taxonomy. Nobody needs to be able to evaluate. It’s all just preference, anyway. No more abstractions. Only feelings.
You know, emotions at their age are hard enough to deal with. They don’t need to worry about interpreting and understanding them.
Oh, and let’s set every lesson to the tune of a current Top 40 song.
Maybe this will attract them.
Let’s stop pushing them to be the best they can. They’re just fine as they are. What matters is that they’re in the building. Their butts are in the seats…
Let’s do these things, and check back in, say, 35 years to see how this generation is contributing to society.
Well, church, how’s it working for you?
Because that’s what many of you have done, and are still trying to do.
Check out this comment from a recent post.
I really don’t know what the point of your article is, but I do want you to know this, if we don’t attract the kids to church when they are young they will NOT come when they are older. Until the churched (religious) people understand that it is NOT about the music (no matter which style you like), it’s about worshiping the one who made us, and saved us. Whatever it takes to get the youth to that point is exactly what we should be doing. If you look out in your crowd and everyone has blue hair, you are doing something wrong. If that means bringing in a new method of music, what would Jesus do? He met people where they were at, we better do that too or the “church” will die! Literally! – Tim
Another Patheos Evangelical blogger wrote this week that the key to getting millennial butts in the seats was to change our “Sunday morning worship experience” into something that they’d actually want to come to.
So, in other words, we just need to make worship in their own image, and they won’t ever want to leave!
That reminds me of a good ol’ classic from that great American hymn-writer, Dewayne Blackwell…
My guess is that plan didn’t save the guy’s marriage. Just a guess.
Participating in worship is hard sometimes. It takes discipline. It takes work. It takes effort.
But it’s necessary for us to be the church we’re called to be.
Enough with the preferences. Enough with the self-help. Enough with the “worshiptainment.”
Preferential, entertaining worship leads to reactions like this:
“I don’t like that kind of worship.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“That liturgy stuff is boring.”
“Those songs really speak to me.”
“Silence makes me uncomfortable.”
(These remind me of a few favorite movie quotes.)
It’s base. It’s self-referential. It’s absent-minded consumerism. Sorry, Matt, but it misses the heart of worship.
True, costly, beneficial, authentic, Christian worship leads to responses like this:
“God’s story is breathtakingly beautiful!”
“The love of God is a such a great mystery.”
“Where is my place in all of this?”
“What does ‘thy kingdom come’ require of me?”But shouldn’t we meet people where they are? Yes. After all, Jesus did.
But as you said, Mr. Tim, they’re not in church.
So what do we do?
We tell and retell God’s beautiful story.
We preach it. We pray it. We sing it. We share it. We have symbols of table, font, pulpit and cross to remind ourselves of it.
We receive Jesus himself, broken and poured out, to nourish and strengthen us.
We join together, old and young, rich and poor, from every walk of life. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. We’re all in need of grace.
Week after week. Year after year. So that it becomes a part of us. So that we find ourselves in the story. So that our lives become less self-referential and more kingdom-referential. So that we remember who we are and whose we are. So that we begin to see God’s creation as it should be. So that we recognize the art from the kitsch, the real needs from the felt needs, the good from the evil, the just from the unjust, the real Jesus from the commercial American Jesus. So that we see the bigger picture of kingdom living. So we begin to realize how much our enemies look like us, and how much we all resemble our good Creator.
So that through our communal prayer, we become God’s prayer for the world.
And then we go.
We don’t stay.
We don’t hide.
We don’t rely on the “Sunday morning worship experience” to do our dirty work for us.
We don’t let music do our dirty work for us.
We don’t let our programs do our dirty work for us.
We stop preaching silly sermon series and singing feel-good love songs to Jesus.
We go and we love with kind of fervor that Christ’s love demands.
That is the heart of Christian worship. Not strategic marketing. Not following the trends. Not getting butts in the seats.
We have no other option.
I hated algebra. But I needed it. I’m better for it. I see the world more clearly because of it.
And here we are, trying to make church a cool place where young people WANT to hang out.
Well, it’s not the 1980s, and the church isn’t the mall. Start BEING the church, and they might see how much they NEED it, too.
Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;
The altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice
And what His table doth give us;
Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.
-Nicolai F.S. Grundtvig, trans. Carl Doving