I would imagine that in most Baptist churches there is one question that hangs in the air: “How can we get more young people in our church?” It’s one that I deal with pretty much all the time, especially as older members attend more and more funerals of their friends.
Most the responses I’ve heard in answering that question relate to the newest technology or worship style. These two issues have some merit, but it is refreshing to read about someone who deals more with the theological and missiological aspects of church life. Greer’s assessment of the current state of Baptist church attendance regarding her age group is poignant and should be a must read for concerned pastors of our denominational stripe.
Her contribution to this ongoing discussion dismisses some of the stereotypes that we’ve placed on 20-30 year olds, in that we believe that superficial means will get them through the doors of our aging buildings. I really appreciate her critique of the “harsh church” and the “watered down church.” Go back and read her thoughts about that. This age group wants the church to face the future with its eyes wide open and unafraid to engage its culture. I resonated with her view that no one wants to belong to a “crazy” church that blames natural disasters on people who fit certain demographics.
Suffice it to say, I found a kindred spirit through the sharing of frustrations that younger people have because they are looking to make a direct impact upon their world but find churches who are more concerned about filling committee vacancies and keeping the building from falling in. This is why, in Greer’s view, that many 20-30 year olds opt for parachurch and non-profit organizations to carry out their mission impulse. The institutional church simply does not appeal to this age group, and this reality causes great consternation among those who have devoted their lives to a certain type of church life.
I honestly don’t know if the existing Baptist church that we know can make the transformation Greer talks about. Some churches will end up closing their doors and selling their property, and this might not be a bad thing altogether. it might be easier to start completely over than get the established church turned around. The other thought is that not every Baptist church should imitate the other, and there is nothing wrong with an older congregation who is viable in its own setting.
I’m encouraged by the commitment among some of our “young people” who are compelled to do “hands on” mission in their own communities. This inspires me, but I’m also moved at the generosity of older members who have the financial ability and motivation to support the Lord’s work through the local church. Therein is the challenge, to present a gospel message that speaks to the hearts, heads, and hands of the body of Christ.