One of the “skills” my Lent class identified as foundational for their children is the ability to communicate with God. We started the class by talking about when we as adults feel closest to God. As a good teacher, I prepared a list that I did not share but wanted to use as talking points if the class “forgot” anything important. My list was as follows:
- Reading the Bible
- Bible Study/Small Group/Sunday School
Being a solid Gen-X’er I should have anticipated the turn of the conversation, but of course, I did not. When I asked the class when they feel closest to God, their answers ran as follows:
- When something good happens
- When they are with their children
- In nature
- In the acceptance of death of relatives (from a class member who has lost many family members over the years)
- At work (from a class member who works in a hospital)
Notice that not one of their answers was “traditional” or necessarily connected to the church building. In fact, one member of the class said that anything on the list connected with Sunday mornings was more stressful than spiritual. It is a struggle to get her three children dressed, fed and out the door. Once at church, she worries about the children’s behavior in both Sunday School and worship. She stated that she probably only makes it every other week because there are days she just does not want to deal with the stress.
On the other hand, two class members said that while it can be stressful preparing for church, once there, they find themselves refreshed and ready for a new week.
So what does this mean for the next generation? How do we communicate our feelings of connection or stress to our children? When they are adults, when will they feel that connection to God – in church or somewhere else?
I sense a shift on the horizon. If Sunday morning church starts to become less and less relevant, our churches need to find ways to encourage families to connect to God in a multiple of ways. The traditional methods of Bible study and prayer are still vital to the building of disciples, but they need to be taught and made accessible to those who do not connect with “old fashioned” methods. Worship needs to be less about liturgy and performance and more about interaction and participation. Families should be encouraged to spend time together serving, playing and learning.
Church as we know it may be on the way out. Can we adjust fast enough for this next generation?