You know the old saying, “You learn something new every day”?
Well, I learned the following, which was entirely new to me.
“Young people today aren’t joining the United Church of Canada because of the inaccessible language of our old doctrine.”
That’s a paraphrase, but it’s the core of the message someone shared last night at our monthly presbytery meeting.
Do people in the church really believe this? Do people seriously believe that young people today are looking to the Basis of Union of the United Church of Canada in order to determine if this is a church they want to join?
It actually takes work to find this document. If you go the the United Church of Canada website, and to into the section About Us, then Beliefs, there is no mention of our Basis of Union and the 20 Articles of Faith which are the founding doctrine of the United Church of Canada adopted in 1925.
To find our “official” doctrine, you need to know to download our Manual (our policy document) in which to find these statements. Who in their right mind is going to download a policy manual looking for statements of belief when you would think you could just look to that section of our website that says “Beliefs”?
If you are one of these people who believe that a document, only known to the people who are hardcore church involved people, is keeping young people away from the church, you are delusional.
You want to know what is keeping young people away from the church? Get ready because apparently I’m going to tell you for the first time right now. Get your pen and paper, get a comfortable in your seat. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Ready? Ok, here it is…
They are looking for meaning. They want to know that going to your church is giving them meaning in life. They want to know that taking an hour out of their extremely busy lives is going to be worth it. They want to know that they are going to learn. They want to know their children are going to get a good grounding in faith based values. They want to know they can help make a difference.
It’s that simple.
Yet, for many churches there is no meaning. We gather on Sunday mornings, say some words that we seem to think might be important, but then that’s all we see or hear of it until the following Sunday. There’s no action plan. There’s no continuity. There’s nothing to say we are acting out of what we profess to believe on Sunday over the rest of the week.
Here’s what we offer young people.
- Something to do on Sunday morning besides sitting in a cold rink or a lying in a warm bed
- Meetings discussing budgets and budget driven business related to keeping the church open
- A chance to take part in fund-raisers to help keep said building open
Does this sound like fun to any of you?
It doesn’t to me.
Doctrine? You have got to be kidding me.
Give us meaning.*Photo from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1162222
Being a Christian, what is most important is that I have a personal relationship with God. My life has meaning, purpose, and a sense of direction because of my up close and personal relationship with God. When I worship publicly, or participate in some other manner in the life and work of my Congregation I am expressing publicly my faith in God and in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. I suggest that one reason that young people don’t go to Church is because of the fact that they have not been in the habit of going to Church on Sunday the way myself and others of my generation were required to do when we were growing up. In addition, young people can’t be expected to live a faith with which they are not familiar. How can you live in accordance with Christian principles if you don’t know what those principles are? Having a personal relationship with God, expressing one’s faith in God publicly during a Worship Service and other participation in the life and work of a Congregation, as well as living out our beliefs as we live out our daily lives in other ways, are all necessary parts of the bigger picture which need to be present if anything we do as Christians is to have meaning and purpose.
Thank you Herb.
What you have said is very important. It’s about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But for many, as you have identified, do not understand the nature nor the need for such a relationship. They think they can “know God” in different ways.
Spouting doctrine on the street corners is not going to make people want to come to our churches. What will? Meaning. Purpose. It is through these avenues we are able to introduce people to the love of God through Jesus Christ, and how his sacrifice offers healing.
Peace be with you brother. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks RevNick, good article. I also belief meaning and an authentic experience of God are what most new church goers are looking for. I was able to find the Basis of Union on the United Church website: http://www.united-church.ca/history/overview/basisofunion
Thanks for the link. But thinking like a “new visitor”, it’s certainly not in a place someone would look for our “beliefs”.
Couldn’t agree more. When I am visiting the big city I often attend a “seeker” church started by a more conservative/traditional denomination. They don’t soft pedal anything doctrinal (although they do take time to explain it) and have nothing but young people attending (i.e. as a
40-something I stick out as the old person).
Why are they full of young people (20-30 year olds)? They are focussed on being the church rather than maintaining a church. They run small groups, are tech friendly, and are focussed on building relationships between the people in their church, the wider community and God.
I love my United Church but more and more we seem to have things backwards. We assume that our church is in decline because we need to revise our doctrine/music/policies/mission-visions statement/liturgy/whatever while in reality we aren’t seeing young people because for the most part we offer them nothing that they desire- the chance to be part of a thoughtful, active, welcoming community of faith where they can learn, worship, and serve with others.
Yes, that’s true. But the Basis of Union isn’t a great place for a new visitor to start anyway, like you say in your post. This is much more relevant and in the right place, imo:
lol…Nick I agree with you, and we often come from different ends of the spectrum, so that’s saying something! I can’t say I’m a big fan of the language of the basis of union. So far in my time in ministry, I have only had two people tell me that they have actually done research on the United Church before coming. Those two people have told me eacatly what other other new folks have told me. They come because of what the United Church DOES and the stand we take on social justice issues. I like the parts of the new documents that uphold what we do and believe.