Lifeway Research recently confirmed with statistics what we’ve all noticed in our churches. We’re losing the 20somethings. Break down the ages of most congregations, and you’ll see a startling absence of young people between 18 and 30.
I am currently teaching a Sunday School class that seeks to reach this elusive generation. I am a 20something who is ministering to other 20somethings. And while I don’t claim to be an expert on reaching my own generation, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
First up. Music does not bring people to church. People bring people to church. At this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, I was distressed at how many times I heard pastors mention “updating our music” as a way to reach my hard-to-reach generation.
Sorry to burst the bubble. But changing the music is completely irrelevant.
I talked to a handful of 20somethings who dropped out of church for a few years and are now back and engaged. When I asked them about the worship style of our church (we’re a mix between blended and traditional), the answers were all different. Most of them indicated that they would rather we sing less and get to the preaching quicker. “That’s what we’re there for,” said one. Others mentioned how much they loved the organ. A couple mentioned that the “hymns” could be hard sometimes, but that they wanted to learn them anyway, as they felt they were important.
My generation is musically fragmented. Some of my classmembers like Country music. Others like P.O.D. and Disciple. Some are into soft rock. One loves anything Classical. The majority like folksy rock, but there’s no consensus. The Iraq war veteran in our class (tattooed and tough) has a soft spot for the Carpenters, Celtic chants, and the crooners of the 40’s and 50’s. iTunes and iPods. We are a generation of many styles.
The idea that a “contemporary” music service is going to reach my generation just makes me laugh. No one in my class is there for the music. They are all there for the relationships and the Bible teaching. Not that the music is unimportant… it’s just not central.
Even funnier is the mindset among the Boomer generation that if we were to start using the organ and singing hymns again that all the young people would leave. The Boomer generation is making the same mistake that their parents did, thinking that what attracted them to church is what will attract their kids. Sorry. It isn’t happening. Furthermore, musical style isn’t much of a factor anyway.
For some reason, I have a feeling that most churches don’t really want to invest in the 20something crowd. It’s almost become an expectation that people will drop out of church between 18 and 30 and then return when they have kids and are ready to start “real life.” Meanwhile, the 20somethings are drinking their lives away, buying into the American dream of materialism, and starting off marriages on shaky foundations.
It’s easy to update musical style and think that this is the “sacrifice” it takes to reach the younger crowd. It’s much harder to actually invest in the relationships and serious Bible teaching that are actually more effective in reaching the 20somethings.
Let’s keep hoping in the 20somethings and stop cursing them with low expectations or old-fashioned ideas. “Contemporary” worship is so old anyway. Let’s bring this generation back to the church with what they might have missed during their childhood and youth group experience: the gospel!
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog