This is a question that we all should be asking ourselves especially when there are so many tools available to help with this. It is a matter of understanding the culture we are in, but also with a realization that we aren't an amalgam that can be easily understood just because of what one group exhibits.
Being a Gen-Xer, which seems to be that generation that most have just let fall to the wayside as most materials focus on the Millenials (oh, how they love that....said no millennial ever). The reality is that we are moving into a post-Christian world that does not view the Church like the parents of Baby Boomers did. The church is something that many have been to or heard about, but decided it was not for them and walked away. They saw the infighting, the hypocrisy, and the judgment and determined that the Bible is not true and the people who believe it are anti-Science and out of touch with reality. For some of those that have tried to stay their faith is often compromised and are living a life that, not that long ago, would have been apprehensible to most in the Church.
Barna and Pew find that more and more young adults are identifying less and less with the Christian faith and don't really want anything to do with those that are a part of it. At best they are angry, and at worst they are apathetic. So, what are we, as the Church, to do about it? I'm not talking about the buildings that we go to for worship each week, but all who call themselves followers of Christ?
Let's stop making excuses. As a pastor, I love the Church, and I love my congregation. I tire of excuses, though. In reality, I am tired of my own excuses. It's hard to admit, but there are areas in which I could have done better, and I could do better. That is a fact of our broken humanity. Just like in any good twelve step program, the first step is admitting you have a problem. For all of us Christians, it is to admit that, as Christians, we are all sinners who have fallen short and have an addiction to sin that keeps us from fully living into the calling that God has for us.
When the concept of A Church Rated began, it started with a desire to think of worship differently. I found that the Sunday worship service was not necessarily a safe place for my kid's faith development. What do I mean by that? Sometimes, unintentionally, things are done and said to young children and parents of young children that causes them not to feel like they belong in a worship service. The sad reality is that many times the parents fall into that trap and leave and not return to church or they find another congregation that has a program which separates them from their kids during service, so as not to disturb the "grown-up" worship. So, kids are entertained while the adults can worship God in peace.
Let's think about this. Who did God make the center for the faith development of a child? The Church on the Corner? No, parents. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV),“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
We are given a great privilege and a duty to raise our children in the faith. Unfortunately, that has been put on Sunday School and Children's Church and we, as a people in general, have relegated faith life to Sunday mornings. The calling and the duty are that our faith is always to be in the forefront not as a secondary thing we just do weekly or whenever we may fit it into our lives. For many of the young adults today and the youth this is why the Church is not something that they see as important. So, here is one of the first steps that we, as the Church, are called to implement, placing the faith first in our lives and decision making.
This may seem simple, but it really isn't. This isn't a total separation from the world, but a strong striving to live in the world without being of the world. It is difficult. Every community has that "seeker sensitive" church. They often have edgy names, similar to what I have called this ministry (which is not a church, but a ministry to help churches). In many of these congregations, the messages are a Series of studies that are more focused on the listener than they are on Jesus Christ. It is nice to learn about positive life skills that will assist in a better home life and family life, but Jesus didn't die so that we could have a comfortable life. Unfortunately, in this setting, the worship is focused less on worshipping a worthy God (worship is of old English of worthy-ship because we gather to focus our attention on the One who is worthy of our praise). Don't get me wrong, I love much of the popular Christian music and enjoy listening to it, but much of it is not focused on the Gospel and our service in the world, but on how God can make us feel better.
As I explore with you these things and we think together about the importance of "spreading the faith" my focus will be centered on how we can help our congregations bring the worship together with families and think about what we are doing intentionally. Sometimes, we may want to have times of worship not for the children, but, generally, I believe that worship services are meant to be fully integrated with children and parents praising God together.
I hope that those who read this enjoy the journey and come alongside me in this time of exploration.