What Does Church Offer Young Families?

I have been mulling this question over and over a lot lately.  You see, I pastor a typical mainline denomination church, which means we are an aging congregation.  And we need young families.

But the question is:  Do we need young families to continue the institution, or do we want young families because we offer something different than the rest of the world – something that meets needs in their lives?

Any institution needs new “customers”.  Think about it.  Go to your local mall and look at the stores that exist, and the ones that are no longer there.  Many companies go out of business each year.  And they go out of business because they did not get new customers.

On a recent shopping trip, my family went into one of the old retail “giants”, a name at one time synonymous with American retail strength (especially in the catalog days).  But this company is going to close in the next few years.  New customers are not shopping there.  Where is the fault?  The bad young families who refuse to shop there? Or is it the retail establishment that does not change to reflect the needs of the young families?

During our shopping trip, we were met with terrible customer service.  Absolutely terrible.  We purchased two dresses for our daughter and the clerk was going to shove them into a small bag – she apparently did not know about garment bags.  We wanted to use our “loyalty points” but she ignored that, finally telling us it was our fault.  We left quite disgruntled.

Upon going into another retail store, we found similar dresses for a lower price and purchased them.  The clerk greeted us warmly, immediately hung the dresses in a garment bag and checked the remaining value on a gift card.

I returned the first dresses to the store, told the supervisor and left.

So – how does this relate to church?  I now wonder how many times we give our visitors the same bad customer service.  I wonder how many times we expect young families to act like the families of 1952, when society was different.  I wonder how many times our visiting young families feel like my family did when we left S***s.  How many will just not return?

For those who follow sports, when your team wins you feel good.  But truthfully whether the Eagles win the Super Bowl (yeah, right) or not, my life is the same.  A sporting event, while entertaining, is not life changing.  The church, however, is.  The church brings the good news of Jesus Christ – news that we are loved, forgiven, at one with God.  And that is important.  The church needs to remember that God loves all people and wants all people to turn to Him.  And that is life changing.  The church offers changed lives – or we should.  The church must be different than all the “choices” out there.

The church can assist families with raising our children in the faith, with living the “sandwich generation” (caring for children and aging parents), with the pressures of two income households, with the pressures of schedules, and everything else.  We need to focus on creative ways to bring us all closer to Christ without creating “one more thing” on the schedule.

And so, young families forgive me when I’ve been the “bad retail clerk”.  And help me.  Tell me – how can we work together to make the church a better place for young families?

Hearing God

Think about how many words you hear in any given day. From the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep, how many words do you hear?  10,000?  12,000?  15,000?  When you stop for a moment and think about all sources of spoken word – other people, television, radio and other forms of media, the estimate gets higher and higher.  And we all know that not every word we hear is a good one.  We hear a lot of negative words every day.  And we hear a lot of words that go against our values as Christians.  Words filled with hate, rage, retribution and evil are a part of the everyday lexicon.  And for that reason, it is important to start and finish our days with positive words – words that reinforce love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians’ 5:22-23).

I was reading an article about Mr. Rogers, you know, the “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” Mr. Rogers.   Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and his flock was the youth of America who watched his show.

Before entering that office each day, Rogers would pray, “Dear God, let some word that is heard be yours.” (Jonathan Merritt http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/mister-rogers-saint/416838/).  Think about that prayer for a moment. What do you think would happen if:

  1. We added that prayer to our morning prayer time?
  2. We actually opened our ears to listen for God’s word?

My guess is that we would hear from God.  We might hear from God through the people we encounter, and we might hear directly from God’s mouth.  We might actually be astonished to hear what God says to us – and if we listen to Him, we might just make it a beautiful day in the neighborhood after all.

Dear God, let some word that is heard be yours.  Amen.