Simple Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Efforts to Reach the Next Generation

(Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash)

I was recently at a church on a Sunday morning and noticed that during the songs, not one single teenager was singing with the congregation.

They simply stared ahead at the song leader with no outward signs that they were participating in worshiping Jesus during the songs.

All of the songs were hymns that the older members of the congregation enjoyed singing. It was obvious that they had a strong preference for hymns.

This reminded me that every church that wants to still be in existence 20 years from now must set aside some of their personal preferences for how church should be done and be willing to make room for the preferences of the next generation.

There are churches across our nation that are dying a slow death. They refuse to let go of some of their preferences and it is obvious in the percentage of kids and young families who are attending. These churches are turning into ministry mausoleums.

There is a church about 2 miles from where I live that I am familiar with. "Back in the day," they had 200 people attending. I drove past it on a Sunday morning recently and there were maybe six cars in the parking lot. This story could be told many times over in our nation right now.

In the last few months, there are two quotes that hit me as I wrote them. Here they are:

"A church without children is terminal."

"If there is no crying (in the nursery), your church is dying."

Millennials and their Gen Z kids want to help shape the future of the churches we are asking them to attend and participate in. That being said, when was the last time you gathered a group of them together and asked them what they would change in the church if they were given permission?

And what if some of the things they want to change are the opposite of your church preferences? Are you willing to set your preferences aside to reach the next generation?

I have found that many of the church battles and worship wars that happen are because the older generation is unwilling to surrender any of their preferences. This is one reason why Millenials and Gen Zers are leaving our churches.

If we want them to be leading the church one day when we are gone, then we must give them some say in helping lead the church now.

At one of the churches where I was on staff, the church had come to a crossroads. Would they only cater to the preferences of the older members? Would the older members make room for the next generation to lead?

One of the key elders in the church helped the church move forward. On a Sunday morning, he was sitting in a service. New music was being sung. Songs the older members had never heard before. Songs that were louder than the songs from previous generations. Songs that were definitely the preference of the next generation.

The elder was sitting beside the pastor on a Sunday morning in a service. He leaned over to the pastor and said this...

"This music is not what I prefer. It's louder than I am used to, and I am not familiar with the words, but I'm looking over at my grandkids, and they are worshipping and praising God. That's what matters most to me. Sign me up to be a supporter of the changes we are in the process of making that will help us reach them."

That church is thriving and growing. Why? A big reason is the older generation was willing to lay aside their preferences for the preferences of their children and grandchildren.

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Please, please, please don't let your preferences keep you from reaching the next generation. The future of your church is at stake.

Dale Hudson is a ministry builder. As a children's pastor, he has helped build some of the largest and fastest-growing children's ministries in the country. At Cross Church, he led the children's ministry to double in size. At Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, he helped the church grow from 8,000 to 16,000 in four years with the majority of the growth coming from reaching unchurched families.

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