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EDITORIAL: Keeping millennials in the church

We have, it seems, evolved into a nation of “Nones” — folks with no religious ties and little interest in organized faith.
One-fifth of Americans — and one-third of adults under age 30 — have no religious affiliation, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life proclaimed this past fall.
“Spiritual but not religious” has become the catchphrase of our times.
In our own fellowship, many Churches of Christ are graying as children grow up and leave the fold. There are 102,000 fewer people in the pews nationwide than a decade ago, according to Churches of Christ in the United States, published by 21st Century Christian. That figure represents a 6.2 percent decline.
We live in a postmodern era in which critics of our Christian faith would lead you to believe that churches in America are dying.
Not so fast.
EYes, the times are challenging. Yes, the culture is increasingly secular. But we serve an all-powerful Savior whose kingdom is secure. God calls us to plant seeds. He can handle the harvest.
In this issue of The Christian Chronicle, our in-depth coverage provides insight on young Christians and potential strategies for ministering to millennials:
•  Teen survey: On the front page, we report on the findings of the 2012 Church and Relationship Survey by Oklahoma Christian University’s Intergenerational Faith Center.
Researchers Dudley Chancey and Ron Bruner surveyed 482 high school members of Churches of Christ. 

Chancey and Bruner characterized the students’ ideas for making the church more like the church God meant it to be as “often insightful and surprising.”
Some of the ideas relate to teens’ desire for more upbeat worship and less routine sermons.
Other findings may be less expected: Teens hunger for more substantive relationships, particularly with older Christians. Teens long for deeper Bible studies that go beyond rote recitation of familiar verses.
Often they see our fellowship as too judgmental and desire to share their faith in ways that won’t alienate outsiders.
• Hands and feet of Jesus: On page 3, we explore the concept of social justice vs. kingdom work.
As we’ve reported previously, it’s no secret that today’s young people value hands-on ministry, such as feeding the hungry, painting houses for the elderly and providing coats for the homeless. But what’s the relationship between the labors that occur outside the church doors and what happens in the church pews on Sundays?
Again, we strive to understand the heart of Generation Y — and hope the lessons learned can benefit church leaders concerned about young people.
• Intergenerational ministry: On page 31, Tim Pyles, minister for the Broken Arrow Church of Christ in Oklahoma, reviews an impressive book on intergenerational Christian formation.
As Pyles notes, many churches have focused so much on age-segregated programming — a youth devotional here, a senior luncheon there — that they have fractured God’s spiritual family.
We must work harder to buck that trend and bring Christians of all ages together for the sake of the kingdom.
If you care about the future of the Lord’s church, we pray that this issue of the Chronicle will inspire you to find ways to embrace young Christians and help prepare them for lifetimes of faith and service.

  • Feedback
    The bottom line is the Church of Christ is shrinking relative to itself and relative to the total population in the United States.
    Apparently God has selected a form of organization(each group autonomous) that forces every group to invent the wheel… again.
    Fads are fads and all will drift away. The “progressives” are no more evangelistic than the “traditionals.”
    “…we strive to understand the heart of Generation Y” did Paul do that?
    Our assemblies are all about encouraging each other to love and good works but we insist it is about worship. Nowhere does the bible suggest or even hint at assembling to worship. Paul told the Romans what worship is. We leave our assemblies numb from the monotony. No one is encouraged.
    John Jenkins
    Gatlinburg, TN
    February, 19 2013

Filed under: Editorial

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