Many churches ask, “How can we get younger families into the church? How can we target younger families? How can we attract younger families?” Whenever I’m asked those How questions I usually answer with my Why questions, “Why do you want younger people in your church? Why are you looking to target younger families?” The answers I get are standard for every church. Here are just a few:
We’re getting older, and we need younger people to do what we can’t
They can help us reach other young families
Young families bring energy, and we need energy
They will help us keep the doors open
Older members tend to have a fixed income, younger people can give more
Younger families are important [usually shared with nothing added to the statement]
Notice a pattern?
When churches answer the why, it’s based on how younger families can help them. What they’re saying is, even if they do not realize it, younger families have value for how they can help us.
There is a yuck factor involved in targeting people because you think they can help you, or your church.
It’s the difference between those with a modern mindset of church, striving to understand those with a post-modern view of a community of faith.
A community of faith should be a transparent, open, authentic community where lives are changed, and people see, live, understand, and express the power of the Divine in their lives. It’s not about targeting, it’s not about attracting, it’s being a place where people are loved, and they’re wanted for who they are, and not what they can do for us.
The questions we should be asking are, “How can we become an authentic community of faith? How can we become open, and transparent, in all we do? How can we express our desire to want people for who they are?”
Answering those questions will move us from being a church. to becoming a community of faith.A community of faith where the expectation isn’t to attract young families, but attract the broken, those in need of our love. This is messy, and is so not what many are used to doing.
To accomplish this, churches needs to shift form the church culture, to the community of faith culture. Here are some pointers:
Tackle the hard issues: Don’t shy away from the hard issues facing people today; people are struggling, and if you don’t tackle those issues you’re simply giving lip service; tackle poverty, tackle hunger, tackle equality, tackle abuse. Be real. Sometimes that means you may be tagged political. I find it funny, but when a more conservative church tackles a progressive issue, they’re called being biblical, but when a progressive community tackles a conservative issue, they’re called being political.
Accept messy: A church desires to live in the except messy mode; a community of faith lives in the accept messy mode. When you’re a community of faith, open to the broken, things get messy. Messy in the emotional sense, and in the physical sense. To be a community of faith open to the broken, you need to develop a deep, lasting tolerance to messy.
Embrace teachable moments: Broken people need to learn to be whole in the Divine. Now, that does not mean we should teach them how to act in church, but we should teach them how to find wholeness in the teachings of Christ.
Give people a break: If you see a parent trying to put coats, and hats, on several children, jump in and give a hand. If child spills something, don’t give the parent a weird look, jump in and help clean it. Don’t complain when a child cries in service; and never stop children from being children, even during the service. Help when it looks like they need help, don’t ask – just help.
Become a community of faith that reaches out to those living around them, not so they can join the church, and increase offering, but because a community of faith cares. If your motivation is to get something for you, you are not caring for those around you – you only care to make life easier on those already in your church. Become a community of faith.