It’s no secret that many of our Millennial Children do not “go to church.” There are many very good reasons why this is true. Words like inauthentic, boring, hypocritical, small-minded, and inconsequential come to mind.
I remember seeing a film about Millennials and religion about a decade ago, created – not by a denomination or research group, but by a college student. “I don’t need church,” she said. “I have friends.” I hope that’s true for all Millennials and yet . . .
Last week, TBC went to the funeral of a man 76 years her senior. They had had little in common in terms of life experience and political/sociological perspectives. They were not related by blood.
Apart from the whole salvation, Biblical literacy, “learning how to be a good person” arguments for being part of a church – which I could argue here but won’t for now – community is one of the best reasons for wanting our kids and everyone to be part of a spiritual congregation. People come together who would never be at the same party or live on the same block or work in the same offices.
TBC shared after the funeral that she felt so loved “to be back.” These were people who have known her since before she was born. They watched her learn to walk and talk. They encouraged her when she read the morning Psalm from the pulpit without being able to say her “Rs” and they loved seeing her in worship wearing her soccer uniform. They donated money for her to go on a mission trip. And when she went to college, a group of young adults (not much older than she) gave her money to buy her first textbooks.
Not every kid in church experiences this.
PKs in particular often observe church people being mean and petty in ways that the average church kid never sees or wouldn’t notice. But they also witness pure goodness. TBC and her brothers witnessed people volunteering to drive people who couldn’t drive themselves, serving food to people who were hungry, and offering hospitality to people who were different.
As crazy as Church World makes us, when community is created well in the name of God, something holy and wonderful happens.
The truth is that a child can grow up in a congregation and Never Get That. The stories never stick in a personal way. The worship and behavioral liturgies of life feel bland. The relationships are shallow. The experiences are hurtful. This happens too often perhaps because we misunderstand what’s important about “going to church.” It’s not about the rules (what we wear, how we sit and stand.) It’s about the relationships – and not just about the relationships between the youth.
Why do we go to church? If my kids asked me today, I’d say, “You know why. This is the community that brought us food when you were born and when your grandparents died. These are the people who took care of you when we couldn’t. They were the ones who served you cookies on Sunday morning and took you seriously after they asked (for the hundredth time) ‘How’s school going?’ They remembered your name and the fact that you mentioned a friend who needed prayer. They held us accountable and shared hard words. They were glad to see us on Sunday mornings or out running errands. They befriended your parents and loved you when you joined us on pastoral calls. They kept their baptismal vows for you and the other children of the church. They loved you.”
Can most of our churches say this? And if your congregation doesn’t have any/many children, can the adults say this about each other?
Relationships are what move us. Our relationships with each other and with God. And good relationships move us outward to notice the world and others, as we have been noticed.