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?