Your average mainline Protestant church is wildly, desperately lusting after young people. In a non-sexual way, of course. Mine is no different. My congregation is paying a good deal of money to a denominational organization so they’ll come in an perform an audit of our congregation and make suggestions on how we can increase our membership, particularly our membership within the cherished Gen X and Y demographics.

They’ve sent out a batch of old people to do the job. And, not surprisingly, they’re making recommendations that have all the sweet cluelessness of your granny’s facebook page.

Some things seem logical, if difficult for a lot of middle-aged people to execute well: for instance, they think we should consider podcasts of sermons and frequently updated blogs for our small groups and our organizations.

A short and some what shirty debate arose when the head auditor suggested that a subject older members ought to broach with younger ones is the question of “regular” attendance. Young people, he said, tend to go to church less often. I raised my hand and asked if maybe that had anything to do with the fact that we’re supposed to be uploading everything from Sunday morning on to the internet? I added that, although the people in my congregation are important to me, that I cherish some of the relationships I have here, I do not consider this group the extent of my church family. I find, I said, fellowship, encouragement, and accountability with friends around the country really.

Yes, that’s wonderful you have those relationships said the auditor.

I wasn’t trying to brag about my friends. I was trying to make a point.

Church attendance is important, churchrat.

I know it is. But you’re not exactly incentivizing it, are you? I can sleep late Sundays and still catch a podcast, which makes getting up much less appealing. I can, theoretically anyway, attend a small group meeting during the week for fellowship and what have you. I could listen to the worship team’s mp3s in my car–again, theoretically. So it seems to me that you’re telling us to tell other people to do something because we say so. Am I missing something?

I think we all can agree that going to church is important.

Okay.

Increasingly–and horrifyingly–I find myself inclined toward a career in the church. As I’ve said, this is ridiculous because I’m the swearing and drinking and generally bad sort of Christian. I struggle a good deal with my frequent inclinations to tell everyone to go straight to hell in a rusty bucket or to pass my time in the company of strange men. It’s also weird because of how much I’ve always been troubled by the church and how it seeks to accomplish things.

To wit:

Dear Churches Who Want New Members-
Be personable to new people. Don’t stare at them or make them stand up and introduce themselves in front of God and everybody. Ask them to sit with you or to check out your Sunday school class next week. Ask them to join you for lunch at the Pizza Hut after. And think really, really hard before writing “hey, girl friend! thanx for comming to church with us on sunday. we think your awesome. lol!!!1!*” on their facebook page. Talk to them, regardless of their age, race, sex or nationality, like you would talk to anyone else. Communicate the gospel. Communicate your genuine affection. Worry less about communicating what I can nearly guarantee will be your failures at hipness.
Yours truly-
churchrat

*a composite of actual messages, in case you were wondering.

Advertisements