I'm afraid for your church!
We recently partnered with 2 districts within the Church of The Nazarene to provide coaching and support to over 100 churches. We've already done evaluations at several and many more on the schedule. Every 4 years their denomination gathers to discuss the state of their denomination and where they are headed as a group. Since we are forming this partnership, we wanted to listen in on a few of their sessions during their General Assembly. We heard a staggering statistic from David Busic, one of 6 General Superintendents, that in 2016 24% of Nazarene Churches (5,353) reported having 0 people between the ages of 19-29 in their congregation.
In 2016 24% of Nazarene Churches (5,353) reported having 0 people between the ages of 19-29 in their congregation. - David Busic
Let the seriousness of that stat sink in. 0 people between 19-29 in 24% of an entire denomination of churches. That's code red. If we evaluated the statistics of many denominations and churches, we would find the same disturbing trend. Millennials are not going to church as much as the previous generation. These churches are becoming museums dedicated to the past. They are not world-changing movements. Something has to change.
As scary as those stats sound, it's not too late. There's still time to make course corrections and begin to reach a new generation of worshippers. Every time we visit a church that is in decline, we hear the same thing: "What do we do? How can we reverse the trend?" There's no magic formula, but there are a few key things that must happen to reverse the trend. Here are 3 critical steps to reaching a new generation for Christ.
1. Sense of Urgency - So many of our churches, pastors, and leaders are gingerly walking through life without a real sense of urgency about the mission they are called to. If we really believe Romans 6:23 is true, we're gonna need to get off our Blessed Assurance and do everything we can, short of sin, to reach as many people as possible for Christ. Every decision we make as a church needs to have a sense of urgency connected to reaching people that are not within the walls of our churches. We can never be satisfied with our current reality. We must keep pressing toward the prize! Set goals, work as a team, and go after it. When you reach it, move the line and do it again. If people can't get behind reaching people for Jesus, it might be time for them to find a new place to worship.
2. Strong Leadership - Show me a church that lacks urgency and you will probably find leaders who lack urgency. Everything rises and falls on leadership. People are attracted to strong, passionate leaders. Lead Pastors need to be downloading the vision from God for their church, inspiring their leadership to jump on board with the vision, and mobilizing their church to accomplish the mission that God has presented to their congregation. Leadership is not for the weak or faint-hearted. We've got to lead strong. As I heard someone recently say "If you want everyone to like you, sell ice cream!" We hear so often about the struggles between pastors and leadership teams. It's time to put egos and agendas aside and get back to the Great Commission and Great Commandment. No more country club mentality. We're building hospitals for hurting people. We need men and women to lead strong to let the world know there's a place where they belong, especially the next generation. I want to see pastors and leaders who are willing to step up and let go of some things they love (tradition, creature comforts, and personal preference) for things they should love even more (young people connecting to Christ, missional movement, and baptisms).
3. Give it Away - If I went to your church this weekend, how many people under the age of 30 would be leading in a significant way? I'm not talking about passing out the bulletin or sweeping up the lobby. I'm talking about leading the worship, directing the kids ministry, mentoring students, and even preaching the message. Having responsibility is a key to helping the next generation stick. They thrive on a sense of purpose. If your worship leader hasn't developed a young person to walk with them, it's time. If your student pastor hasn't mentored a young man or woman to lead other students, it's time. If you haven't given someone younger than you a chance to share the message, it's time. Sure, it might not be as good as you or your older leaders can do it (it might be better!?!), but you were young once and had to make some mistakes along the way. We've got to give leadership away and teach a new generation to love serving Jesus just as much as we do!
The thing that lit me on fire to serve Christ as a 17 year old was the investment of the pastor who led me to Jesus. He took time to pray with me, teach me to serve and read the Bible, gave me opportunities for real leadership, and loved me through the rough times. I'm not afraid for the "Capital C" Church. It will be fine. It's been fine for 2,000 years. If you find your church is one that falls into the previously mentioned category, I'm afraid for your church. You're on a fast track to fading into the sunset and becoming a museum that pays tribute to the good old days. I don't know about you, but I'm not here to build museums, I'm here to build the church and equip the leaders.
If you feel you're alone in this journey, if you need help getting unstuck, if you don't know what the next step is for you and your church, give us a call. We're here to help and it's not too late.
Call me on my cell and let's get started changing the world together.
Chris Hughes - 832.993.5570