Last week in a coaching session with a young pastor, we talked through some challenging decisions to make in her church as she’s about to become the senior pastor.
Beyond the tactical work she has on her plate, the conversation turned a bit philosophical on two vital points her seventy-five year old church will probably wrestle with: Cause and Accessibility.
Much has been written about Gen Z (and millennials for that matter) and the need for their church to stand for something, to have a cause or a mission to work toward that has real weight. In other words, to make a difference in the world, so that their involvement isn’t just feeding a machine or facility or religious institution. Are we advancing the Kingdom of God in a missional way in our city or town? They want to know that their church is doing something the other six days of the week…and feel they’re a part of a community that’s bringing change and hope. And that word community brings us to the next part...
How accessible is your church? Millennials and Gen Z might ask: are there people who look like me? Are you using language and methodologies that have long lost their ability to communicate? Are there next steps for me to enter your community and cause? What are the religious hurdles before I even hear the dangerous message of Jesus, who not only says “Come to me, all who are thirsty” as well as “Pick up your cross and follow me”? In other words: come and die. That’s a tough discipleship pill to swallow! Let me give you an extreme example, and please do NOT think I’m suggesting you do this. Years ago, a young woman at a local university prayed that her dormmate would not be a Christian, so she could share her life and journey with her. Her roommate turned out to be Jewish, and very involved in Hillel at the university. But through the course of many conversations, she started visiting our church on Saturday nights (we held one celebration on Saturday nights, and three on Sunday mornings). After a while, she became more and more interested in the Jewish carpenter and surrendered her life to him as her messiah. She was introduced to me one Saturday night after a service, and we had a fascinating conversation. As she told me her story, her eyes would tear up each time she mentioned Jesus—he was that real to her. She had gone through a radical personal transformation. Toward the end of our conversation, she mentioned she thought she could invite her mom to our church for a visit—I believe her mom was divorced and not really involved in her Reform synagogue. She thought her mom would feel comfortable, so I asked, “Why do you say that?” “Because you don’t have a cross in here,” she responded. I was taken aback, and asked, “What would that symbolize to her?” “Oh,” she replied bluntly, “your people (meaning Christians) killed our people in Auschwitz. That’s what the cross reminds her of.” I was stunned. Symbols can mean very different things to different people…and even change over the years. Of course I'm not suggesting you take your crosses down—they obviously have deep meaning for the people who are on the inside. We just happened to rely less on symbols and more on words…and really pushed the envelope on accessibility. Almost 40% of our people had never been to a church before. But I’m using an extreme example to perhaps get you thinking about other things—language, routines, music, dress—that may have lost their meaning or even be confusing to those who are outside the faith…and perhaps are never explained in your services. How would you rate your church on the Cause and Accessibility scale? Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES
Wondering why people visit your church...but don't come back? VIBE can help you figure that out! See it in action here.