Here it is, the second installment of Reaching People Under 30. Before going any farther into this topic I must remind us there is nothing more important than building solid relationships. This is not only true for people under 30, however if authentic relationships are not part of your ministry practice reaching people under 30 will be nearly impossible. There are some aspects of congregational life that help cultivate and environment for these relationships to flourish, here are a few.
For many years the thought was if you want to reach the elusive young people all you need is a really good band playing hip new tunes. Many worship services were reworked and designed around a non-traditional style of worship with a concert atmosphere. New songs were played, words were projected and an edginess was welcomed. With the redesign or worship many of the rituals and rites of the past were left aside in the name of being contemporary and modern. In the end worship become more about a production and less about an encounter with the Holy, and there were no more young people in attendance than before.
The reality is connecting with people under 30 is not about style, it is about content and integrity. The content of worship needs to have value beyond "the way we have always done it" to connect with the deeper reason of why we are doing something. This means keeping the creeds of old, only being sure to connect the creed with the relevance to our faith today. Sing the hymns of old, remembering to connect them with an experience of the Holy. This brings me to integrity. The integrity is to who we are called to be as the church. The very purpose of the church is to be the gathered people who journey together experiencing and embodying the Kingdom of God. First and foremost worship is about relationship to God through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. When worship becomes about holding on to style preference over connection with God, our integrity with God is what is at stake. If a church is going to connect with people under 30 the content has to have connection and integrity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The refrain has been uttered by many good church folk over the years, "Young people just are not as committed as we have been." To be fair that may not be the exact quote however it is often the sentiment. The reality, to put it bluntly, is not about commitment, it is about the missional value of the commitment. People under 30, or under 50 for that matter, are not real excited about helping to serve the church dinner to raise money for the budget. Excitement comes when we are engaging in mission that changes the lives of those involved. If there is solid evidence the latest church supper has actually resulted in the growing a disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world getting people involved might become easier.
Like many generations before, people under 30 want to make an impact on the world. The desire is high to know their time and effort has made an actual difference in the lives of the people around them. A key difference is that engagement will not happen out of duty and obligation like previous generations. Duty and obligation do not care enough weight and force to keep engagement high, there must be clear missional reason for engagement. Supporting the structures of the church, which people under 30 are suspect of to begin, will not engender engagement. An invitation to transformation through missional living will make all the difference.
In the next installment two more aspects of reaching people under 30 will be explored. We will look at what it means to move beyond consumerism, and engaging justice.