Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

How To Get Me To Come To Your Church

with 2 comments

I had a phone conversation recently with a sweet old lady (I meet a lot of sweet old ladies out here) and discussed a subject which seems to be on the hearts and minds of a great deal of people in older churches.

These old churches are universally in fear of closing their doors, as their congregants get older and die their membership shrinks and if no new blood enters the church goes up for sale. So the question becomes “how do we bring in young people” with the answer inevitably being “we need to become more ‘modern’” which leads to all sorts of discussions about PowerPoint, and cool music as if those were the essential elements of the ubersuccesful churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek

I worked at an old church for 2 years where I planted a successful young adult ministry, meanwhile attending a popular young church after having been raised in a much emulated Megachurch… And I’m in my 20s… so I figure I’m about as much an expert as anyone on how to get 20 somethings into your churches. Here’s my advice:

Dear Old Churches,

Stop it! You’re going to ruin everything.

There is one thing you have going for you, and it’s that you are a cool old church with a rich history and stained glass windows, We 20 somethings might not understand what the heck you’re doing with a “Paschal Candle” but we’re willing to learn… Seriously, most of us are Professional Students, learning is one of the only things we’re good at.

That might not seem like much, but if you trade that in to become “Purpose Driven” you’ll have nothing. You suck at being purpose driven.

I know old churches don’t like terms like “suck” but that’s the technical term. I can’t count the number of ways I don’t want to hear your choir trying to sing “Every Move I Make” when I can hear it done better at the church up the street, but more importantly, even if you did do it well, I wouldn’t want to come. You know why? Because the 90s ended, and I’m not 10 anymore!

At best, If you managed to catch up with the times and become an exemplary modern church (which you won’t) you would manage to attract my mothers generation.

People in their 80s like what you’re doing, people in their 50s like what you’re trying to do. They like PowerPoint, and acoustic worship bands with three point sermons that alliterate, they think that’s neato.

But people in their 40s are already starting to yawn

If you want to attract people in their 40s you can’t read books on what churches did 10 years ago to become successful you have to do what churches are doing right now. And if you want people in their 30s you have to look at what churches are just starting to do.

But what you want is the people in their 20s, the EchoBoomers, the Up And Comers, the folks that can meet at your church and have babies and stay for the next 100 years.

To get people in their 20s you are going to have to do what churches are going to start doing 10 years from now.


So if you haven’t given up and decided that I must be wrong because what I’m proposing is too hard, you’ll be asking “Okay Hot Shot, So what’s that?” and you’ll get the obvious answer “Well I don’t know of course, It’s not here yet” but if I were you I would take refuge in Solomon’s declaration that there is “nothing new under the sun” you’ve been around for about a century, you know the trends always come back. Kids my age are wearing Horn Rimmed Glasses and Fedoras again. Do you really believe that the Organ has less staying power than Hush Puppies?

Now that’s not to say you can keep doing what you’ve always done (that’s clearly not working) but doing that would be better than doing megachurch badly. What I am saying is leverage what you know, and invite us to experiment with you.

-So you do hymns, that’s chill, We know like three of those that have been transposed to guitar. What if we brought some of the music that was added there back into the choir? Would that be horrible? I have no idea.

-What does “A Mighty Fortress” sound like in electric cello?

-This call and response business is kind of interesting, Like a football game right? Except why does everybody who’s doing it sound like their cat just died?

-Say what ever happened to what was cool in churches 20 and 30 years ago? What’s with the gap, between the 60s and the 90s? Doesn’t anybody in church still know how to rock the tambourine?

-I get that there’s a church calendar. But other than the fact that Melba brings different flowers and everybody thinks about wearing red on Pentecost… What’s it for?

-Wait Lent? Seriously? I thought that was a catholic thing…

-I came to check out your church and there’s all sorts of cool old people here. Before I came here to college I went to a church that had nobody over 40. It would be awesome to get mentored by some old Myagi-like dude! Why won’t any of them talk to me?


Written by RyanGaffney

November 23, 2010 at 3:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Dude! That’s my church in Newton! (in the picture) no way….good thoughts…

    Greg Regier

    January 27, 2011 at 8:56 am

    • Do’h! I just Googled a random church that looked smallish and oldish. I made sure to get one out of Manhattan. Oh well… Nothing against your church


      January 27, 2011 at 9:09 am

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