It is a pretty commonly accepted fact that not a lot of Americans today attend church. Most data suggests that between 40 percent and 50 percent of people in Generations X and Y did not grow up attending any kind of church at all.
Those who were born after 1970 (X and Y are generally defined as people born between 1965 and 1990) had Baby Boomer parents who lived through the tumult of the 1960s, saw JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., shot, and were involved in the Vietnam War in one way or another.
Many Boomer parents did not send their kids to church because they themselves were breaking out of the norms of the day. And how much more “normative” do you get than going to church? Even those who did send their kids to church or who attended as a family often did so in a very relaxed fashion. There were the “Christmas and Easter” families, of course, but also the families who went to church only when their kids were little or, in the Catholic faith, until their youngest child “made First Communion.”
As a result of all this, and other factors, many churches today are dying. People don’t go because they never have. They may visit a few times, but don’t find it relevant. They sing songs they don’t know, recite prayers they have never heard and get asked to be on committees. Sometimes they stay. More often, they leave.
Yet the fundamental religious need has not changed. The desire to have a life full of meaning and purpose is alive in all of us. The questions about faith and God and death go through all of our minds.
So what are we looking for from churches? My theory is that we are looking for a place to share our experiences and ask questions. We don’t want a place that tells us what to do, but we do want guidance. We want to enjoy our time, because life’s too short to do something that is more “work,” and we could always be playing Farmville. We want to laugh, do something meaningful, and know that we are not alone.
What do you think?