A blog post by Isaac van Bruggen
Picture this: it’s the early 1500s, and you are a young Martin Luther. Disenchanted with some of the Church’s teachings, you begin to form your own ideas and question authority. You go rogue.
Do you ever wonder what it must have felt like to completely change the church in your thirties? Look around -- it’s happening again! What an empowering time to be a young adult in the Church. Understanding that there are exceptions, in this post I’ll be looking at what faith is to us, why we go to church, and what the church needs to do to keep us around.
Faith is one of those tricky, intangible things that we do not always know what to do with. It’s a feeling, it’s a concept, it’s not visible, but it’s real. How do I know it’s real? I don’t. And neither do you, but we have still have it. For my generation especially, faith is a difficult thing to grasp. In the era of “now” and “stuff,” we have to work harder at believing in something that we can’t see or touch.
One of the ways that strengthens our faith is going to church. But here’s the kicker: We don’t have to go to church to have faith. Worship is an experience that compliments and affirms our faith. It’s an outlet where we can express our faith and share it with others. So why then do so many in my generation decide to stay home on Sundays?
Why do we really go to church?
It may sound like a dumb question, but to those of you who said to yourself, “To go to church, of course,” or “Because I go every Sunday,” or “It’s what Christians do,” try again. What are you doing here? The answer isn’t some one-liner that you can pull out of a hat. People go to church for many reasons, and they are different for everyone. For myself, and for many in my generation, going to church can be a chore. It’s early and we get talked at. No thanks.
The Barna Group has focused on faith and the Millenial Generation for the past decade, conducting over 25,000 interviews in more than 200 different studies. When asked what helps to grow their own faith, going to church wasn’t even in the top 10. Things like family and friends, prayer, and their personal relationship with Jesus are what matter. It’s relevant. We need to make church relevant. Going to church should be invigorating, enlightening, and empowering. When I leave worship, I want to feel recharged, ready to go out into the world and live out God’s word. So how do we do this? To start, we have to realize that it isn’t going to be what we are doing that negatively affects us. It’s what we are not doing.
Check out the whole report and many others at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials.
Keeping the Millenials
Let me start by saying that there are many in the Lutheran tradition that have excelled at being relevant and keeping the millenials engaged. However, many if not most, still have a lot to learn. My generation seeks a deeper worship experience built on community and collaboration. Our whole lives we have been taught that by learning from and with others, we strengthen our own knowledge.
Religion is no different. We seek an environment that is open to discussion and disagreement. The era of being told what is fact and what is fiction is over. While many churches have touched on the superficial aspects of “contemporary,” fewer have made the profound change that we desire. It’s not easy. For youth leaders, it seems like the closer we move to the answer, the further the answer moves. That’s okay. The second we become complacent is the second that we have failed. Church is changing. It’s exciting, it’s invigorating, and it’s happening now. Are you ready to embrace change? We are.
Isaac van Bruggen is a recent graduate of Luther College in Decorah, IA, and an active young adult and member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in New Brighton, MN. A member of Christ the King since he moved with his family to Minnesota in 2001, he has focused on changing the church from the inside out, speaking with members from all generations about how we can work together to keep church relevant for all. A proud tourist in his own city, you can usually find Isaac scoping out the museums, parks, and night life in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and around the state.