A Response to “Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.’”

I love the recent piece about how churches don’t need to try to be cool to attract millenials, by @rachelheldevans.

My friend and blogger Amy Peterson put it this way: “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”

For the record, I totally agree with the view of church, as attributed to millennials, that is presented here. Unfortunately, I think the current attempts to “market” church to a younger generation are inevitable. They may seem forced and they may seem gimmicky, but they are the result of a certain sense of desperation. There are no longer societal forces in place that compel people to go to a Christian church. If worship attendance is shrinking, as it is in many mainline Protestant denominations, the natural temptation is to change something.

Churches all over the country are having meetings about how to boost attendance. My guess is that, whoever goes into those meetings and says, “let’s do more of the same,” probably doesn’t get a lot of support.

I attend a PCUSA affiliated Presbyterian church. The church has many of the attributes that Evans describes that millennials want in her piece. We have a nice mix of younger and older parishioners that attend worship. We are pretty non-judgmental and accepting. We follow the liturgical calendar and honor the sacraments. Our worship can probably best be described as “contemplative.” We do not yet, however, have millennials beating down our doors.

I have been a member of my current church family for 15 years and I see less bodies in the pews than I did when I joined. The people who are there are passionate. They’ve chosen to be there, with no implied duty or obligation. They are wonderful and loving people. My prayer is that we start to see more of them on Sunday. If we can truly extrapolate the views of those quoted in Evans’ piece to a broad demographic, maybe we will.

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