The latest statistics paint a disturbing picture of faith trends in the U.S. Although 70% of the country still claims to be Christian, the numbers of those identifying with Christianity are dropping (an 8% drop since 2007), while those identifying as “none” in terms of religious faith are growing.
Several reasons account for this decline in the numbers of those affiliating with Christianity:
- Scandals within the Catholic Church
- The scandals of several high profile pastors
- The overall skepticism toward institutions in the U.S.
- The perception that Christianity is no longer relevant
- The hurt and pain inflicted on people by dysfunctional congregations
- The greater and instant access to other religions and philosophies of life. (One writer traces the decline of Christianity in the U.S. to the advent of the Internet!)
A common phrase within Christian circles helps shed some light on another reason for the decline—which is also the subject of this story about our congregation: Christianity is one generation away from extinction. Christianity “survives” not only through conversions but also in large part as faith is passed down from generation to generation; from families to families; from households to households.
Could it be that we have stopped this generational passing down of the faith dead in its tracks—by removing faith-formation from the home and by removing our kids and youth from worship?
While we are busy trying to figure out how to get the Millennials back in our pews, we have the eyes of an entire generation looking to us to keep them in the pews. They haven’t decided yet that church is too showy or too traditional. They don’t know the difference between being seeker-friendly or missional. They have no idea what liturgy,sacraments, theology and denominations are and they are not likely to critique whether or not the music is too loud, too upbeat, to slow, or too quiet. They are looking to us for one thing—they want to be seen, they want to be loved, they want to belong. –Christina Embree.
After a 40-plus-year shift from families worshipping together to sending kids and youth off to their own Sunday events while the adults worship in the main worship center, the result is the most unchurched generation in the history of our country.Do you want to know (one of the reasons) why millennials aren’t attending your church? Here goes…Millennials aren’t attending your church because they’ve never had to attend your church. Think about it. From the time my generation was born we were thrown into nurseries with other babies. Then we went to children’s ministries to be entertained while our parents went to “big church.” Then we had middle school ministry. Then we had youth group. Then we went away to college and found a church with a stellar college ministry. It wasn’t until we graduated college that we were expected to be a part of the intergenerational community called “church.” We’d been segregated by age for the first 22 years. And you not only allowed this. You encouraged it.
Admittedly, there are many reasons why each generation in our culture is increasingly distanced from the church. Some have to do with societal shifts that have nothing to do with the church. Some have to do with the inability of the church to articulate the Gospel in compelling ways.
But perhaps one of the reasons has to do with the Sunday School shift…as we shifted kids out of the main worship experience, enculturated them in their own program, and robbed them of any touch points with the rest of the body of Christ.
Another way of saying it: by segregating our kids out of worship, we never assimilated them into the life of the congregation. They had no contact points. They had no experience. They had no connection with the main worship service—its liturgy, its music, its space, its environment, and its adults. It was a foreign place to them. As a result…once they finished with the kids/or youth program, they left the church. As one person put it in a comment on one of my blog posts, quoting and responding to a comment she heard from a young person: “If the church doesn’t love me, then God must not either.” To her, the congregation had made it clear that children and teens weren’t welcome and she took that as a stand-in for rejection by God.
With good intentions we attempted to raise kids to be Christians, but we didn’t raise them to be Churched Christians. And perhaps that, in part, is why so few of them attend a church today. We’ve essentially “Sunday-Schooled” them out of church—because we never assimilated them into church.
Could it be that going back to the future—bringing kids and youth back into big people worship—could save the souls of our congregations?