A Memorial Service, and Young People in the Church

I went to church twice today.  I went to the morning service, and then I went to a memorial service for an elderly congregant who recently passed on.  I did the latter to show support for her son, who has always been nice to me whenever I have come to church.

One theme that was in my mind in both services was young people in the church.  In the morning service, an elderly gentleman (who sits in front of me) was lamenting the lack of young people in the church, and he was noting that the church needs more young people because they are the ones who will provide the church with a future.

At the funeral, there was a well-dressed young person who was talking about the lady who had passed on.  He said that he was dressed nicely, but that he one time visited the church wearing a T-shirt.  The young man broke down crying as he related that the lady came up to him and said that God didn’t care what he was wearing, since God was happy when he just showed up.  That incident obviously meant something to him.  But it must have occurred before I started coming to the church over two years ago, since today is the only time that I saw him at my church.

I don’t really want to write a post about millennials in the church.  I didn’t write a post about that topic when it was abuzz in the blogosphere.  I just kept on writing my perfunctory Nixon posts!  The reason I didn’t write about millennials in the church was that, quite frankly, I don’t know how to attract young people to church.  Some say churches should let young people wear what they want to church, whereas others claim that churches that promote reverence for God through dressing up can draw more people by showing that they take God seriously.  Some say that the church should be hipper—-that it should have rock music, that the pastor should use pop-cultural references, etc.  Others take offense at any notion that young people are that shallow, saying that churches of substance can draw young people.

Some complaints by young people about church are, in my humble opinion, quite offensive.  I one time read an article complaining that churches are like retirement communities.  That sort of ageism makes me sick.  If churches are to adapt to people with this type of prejudice, what exactly has the church gained?

Why wouldn’t a young person want to come to my church?  Well, a young person should feel welcome there: it’s a friendly place, the pastor is humble and is not on a power-trip, the sermons focus on Christian living and God’s love rather than controversial political issues, etc.  The thing is, I think that it’s set in its ways.  Many in the church are over fifty, including the pastor, and so his cultural references in his sermons and the music often cater to people over fifty.  I happen not to mind that myself because I’m a TV Land, old movie, and history buff.  When my pastor told a story about Howard Hughes, I knew who that was (due to my reading about Nixon)!  But I doubt that many young people would get the references.  At the same time, I wouldn’t want for my pastor to be someone he’s not, just to fit someone’s definition of “cool”.  I cannot picture my pastor coming to church in tight jeans and with colored hair!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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