“Top 5 reasons people are leaving the church”
“Church, why Millennials are leaving you”
“An Open Letter to the Church: Why I am Done with You.”
While these may not be exactly the titles of the articles I’ve been reading lately, they are quite similar. Reasons for the decreasing population of twenty- and thirty-somethings has been repeatedly linked to everything from the “showiness” of church to the lack of outward focus and the commercialization of church organization. And lest you think that this blog post is going to offer yet another reason (and yes, I have my thoughts on the whys as well), be at ease because that is not my intent.
Not because I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening to the church today. Not because I disagree with the other bloggers and articles that choose to address the topic head on. Not because I think the situation doesn’t deserve attention or has legitimate evidence behind it.
My issue is this: No one is winning when all we do is pass blame.
When we blame the institution, we negate all the good that comes with it too. When we blame the system, we ignore the legitimate reasons the system was put in the place. When we blame big churches, we miss the big things those churches are doing for the Lord. When we blame denominations, we disregard entire segments of the church who are serving Jesus.
The reality is that Millenials are leaving the church. But there is another generation quickly coming into adulthood (don’t know if we have a catchy name for them yet) and if we spend all of our time, energy, and study on figuring out what reforms we need to get those Millenials back, we could very easily neglect the generation following closely behind.
As my website name indicates, I firmly believe we need to refocus. I’m less concerned with the size of church building and their multiple worship formats as I am about how they are discipling the next generation.
What is church to our kids, the ones inside the walls of the church right now? Is it a place you go or is it a life you live as a member of Christ’s body?
What is faith to our kids? Is it a denominational label you wear with pride or hope realized in serving as the hands and feet of Jesus?
Who is God to our kids? Is He a Santa Claus type being in the sky who loves you and wants to give you things or is He the Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator and Lord of All?
Are we so busy discovering what’s wrong with the church that we neglect to instill in our children what is right with the church?
I’m done chasing Millenials. I’m done blaming the church. I’m done dissecting and analyzing and judging and criticizing. Because I have three children who are growing up quickly and they don’t need to hear what is wrong with God’s body; they need to hear what is right about Jesus. They need me to live Jesus in front of them, share Jesus everyday with them, and be Jesus to the world around them. Whether I am walking into a multi-million dollar facility on Sunday morning or into a living room in someone’s home, they need to see, hear, touch, and know Jesus, not what is wrong with the church next door.
We can either spend the next few years dissecting the wrongs of the church or we can choose today, that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Let’s choose to invest in parents/caregivers so they can pour Jesus into their kids. Let’s invest in our church, no matter what it looks like, so our children grow up in a community of fellow believers.
It’s time to stop the blame game and start living church like it’s for real and not a game.
Because no matter what, a new generation is growing quickly, and their souls are not lost yet. Start fighting for them now so we don’t have to blame the church later when they leave. Our God is big enough, strong enough, and amazing enough to cover our mistakes as long as we consistently point our children to Him.
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.