“Congregations are increasingly composed of people with little sense of the Christian story.”
Alan J. Roxburgh
Increasingly I hear members ask, “Where are our children?” “Where are our grandchildren?” Naturally, the question is asked about senior highs and older children. A lot of them are not in church. They were in Sunday school growing up. They participated in Vacation Bible School most years. Yet, it must not have been enough because today they’re not interested. What went wrong?
These questions are being asked throughout North American churches of many denominations. Such questions are a central concern for a new movement that is growing with considerable force throughout the larger church – The Missional Church Movement.
One answer that is emerging from this movement is that, for most families involved in church, church is either a place to be busy doing “church stuff” or a place where we, and our needs, are taken care of. The conclusion of our nearly grown and grown children is that their lives are busy enough without the church adding to their complicated lives. As for us, their needs are a concern, they can be meet in other ways – unfortunately sometimes in ways that are not always healthy. The one thing that would keep our children connected to the church, and with considerable vitality, is a compelling sense that they are a part of the Christian story.
What gets in the way of this happening is complex – there are many obstacles, many layered upon one another. The largest among them is little evidence that parents are truly discipled – living lives that are ordered around the teachings of Jesus. More of the family financial resources are spent on comforts than used to advance the ministry of the church. Prayers are not a regular part of family life and little care is given to how we speak of others or behave toward them. Simply, our children don’t see transformed lives in their parents.
Another obstacle is parents who see the church primarily for meeting personal needs. Rather than seeing a passion to reach people who don’t know Christ, our children see parents demanding more for themselves from the church. This reinforces in our children the message from the unchristian culture which is “it is about me!”
Throughout this year, I will share reflections here in this blog and in our church’s newsmagazine what it means to be a missional church – a church that cares more about being a force for Christ in the community than “taking care of our own.” This doesn’t mean that the needs of the members are not important, only that they are placed in a larger context of lives continually be transformed to be like Christ and moving each member out to be witnesses for Jesus in the world.