It goes without saying that we live in a consumeristic world. It’s a world that teens and young adults have grown up in. They don’t know anything different.
No matter the context, our products and services are being compared with what else can be accessed at the click of a button. And the younger generations consume at a rapid rate – changing their preferences in accordance with what is being offered.
Where can I get it faster, bigger and cheaper?
Think about your mobile phone for a minute. It was once about the cost of phone calls and text messages. Now it’s all about data.
For young people, it’s all about who is offering the best solution that enables them to connect with their world? Data is now the mantra for data allows for maximum connection and consumption.
Couple this with a willingness to try new things (often without consideration of outcomes or consequences), a desire to make a difference, and a perspective on the future as being more and more complicated, and established organisations and institutions can often find it difficult to work with younger generations. And the church is not immune.
What a challenge!
Often church leaders ask questions around what they can do to retain the younger generation in their programs and church services. What can we do to stop them leaving? How do we need to be tailoring our offerings to suit their needs? What do we need to preach on? And what music should we be doing in our services?
I don’t want to dismiss these questions as insignificant or invalid, but I want to suggest an alternative. Leadership. Get young people involved in leadership. Not on a roster or a one-off opportunity to be involved. No. Leadership. We need young people to lead the church.
Leadership is about vision and direction, yes, but it’s also about cultivating, creating, nurturing, fostering and reimagining.
Leadership is about asking different questions. It’s about dreaming and taking risks. This is what a younger generation want to give themselves to. It’s what they want to invest in want to be known for. So what is required to see younger generations step into leadership?
Three things that help shift the balance from church consumer to - borrowed from a text Matt Brain (Anglican Bishop of Bendigo) wrote a number of years ago now entitled Engage! How the Church can reconnect with young people.
As a leader can you be trusted?
Do you do what you say you will do?
Can your church be trusted?
As a community, are you fulfilling what God desires?
Are you accessible?
Can young people get to know you?
Are you concerned about what concerns them?
Are you clear in what you are asking of the next generation?
Do the stories you tell and questions you ask resonate, challenge, and inspire?
May you seek to not simply make church more relevant or palatable to the next generation, but may you instead give attention to calling the youth and young adults in your church to be leaders.
And when the call comes, may the youth and young adults in our churches say “yes” - yes to cultivating, creating, nurturing, fostering, reimagining, questioning, dreaming and risk taking.
Maybe then we will see a little less church consumption, and a little more community transformation.