The conversations I hear in the church about young people seem to be people over 50 trying to figure out how we can stop the church from dying – how can we “target” populations (please don’t ever, for any reason, use this term) who aren’t in church, how can we be more “relevant” (same goes here), how can we get young adults to be involved. I realize that these conversations, which happen all over the country, are in large part coming from a place of loving the church and wanting it to be around for the next generations, but I think these conversations are not really helping us. It’s like asking, “How can we make horse and buggies appealing to Baby Boomers?” Just because they may not be in any way interested in a horse and buggy doesn’t mean they don’t care about transportation.
Another way of looking at it is that you can try to market land-lines to teenagers till the cows come home. You can do as much market research as you’d like and lament the fact that kids just don’t care about phones anymore because none of them have land-lines. Or you can get some kids to tell you about cell phones and the ways in which they love to communicate with those they love even though their ways look different than your ways. What I mean is this: If younger generations are not coming to church, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about the Gospel. It just means that their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus is culturally different from what they see in most mainline churches. This is not to say that mainline churches are not a faithful expression of the Gospel, only that it is no longer a normative expression of the Gospel.