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Churches Age, But Death Isn’t Inevitable

August 7, 2009

At the small United Methodist church where I grew up, I was active in the youth group (known as Methodist Youth Fellowship, MYF for short). I rarely missed a Sunday night meeting.

Besides being a lot more fun than the main worship service, MYF was also a lot more relevant, most of us thought. We talked candidly about how Biblical teachings applied to us and how they squared with what we observed going on in the world. Like all teens, we were hyper sensitive to and irritated by hypocrisy.

We also worried about our church’s future because…well, we thought it was boring. We even convinced the church leaders to let us stage a play titled “The Church That Died” to make our concerns known. So when this blog post titled “Forever Young” arrived in my inbox, it caught my attention.

In it, the Rev. Jim  White, pastor of Charlotte, N.C.’s Mecklenburg Community Church, commented on a recent study by Ed Stetzer, director of research at Lifeway Research. The study predicts that unless Southern Baptists do something to bring in young adults, membership will drop by half by 2050.

Pastor Jim White

Pastor Jim White

White described three things Meck is doing to attract young adults:

  1. Hire more of them.
  2. Put more of them in visible roles during services.
  3. Acknowledge them when shaping the worship experience.

One point stood out for me, about older people appreciating younger people onstage. “While you can platform older folk and disaffect young adults,” White said, “you can platform young adults and still attract older folk. Lots of them.”

Onstage at Meck

Case in point: I took my 86-year-old grandmother to visit Meck recently. She LOVED it. And she dug the music. Since she lives right around the corner from Meck, I expect they’ll be seeing more of her!

I’m not smart enough to know what churches should or shouldn’t do to stay alive. But I’m convinced the solution doesn’t include doing nothing.

White said, “Yes, a person who is fifty should come and find points of connection and community at your church. But that’s not the problem. We’re reaching the fifty-somethings. It’s the twenty-somethings that we’re missing.”
What do you think?
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