Let me begin with a little background. I don’t blog nor do I typically read blogs. However, when my seminary recently touted there most read blog ever I felt I needed to read what so many resonated to hear, which led me to write this post.
While I am thankful for the blog When Churches Want A Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” and I value its perspective. I have some real concerns. As a pastor of a Presbyterian church that is majority young families let me first dispel a few myths…
- Having young families is actually more difficult, more expensive, and more time consuming then the article suggests. Young families increase your operating expenses and most do not have the income at this stage of life to make a significant change to your budget.
- Not only are young families limited with their financial resources they are limited with their time as they are busy with numerous activities, sports, and classes. Thus, you are not necessarily gaining a crowd of volunteers and more energy to ministries.
- Finally, while the article does not suggest young families are not broken it strongly suggests the church to pursue all who are broken. Let’s not forget that the divorce rate continues to climb, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in teens, and technology is introducing a whole new set of challenges for our children to experience (cyber bullying, pornography, shaming, etc..). Young families are surrounded by brokenness.
I highlight these to remind all of us that young families are not the golden ticket to a healthy church. I believe older families provide a consistent source of giving, established schedules open to volunteering and experience that can help guide younger families. Thus, I agree with the writer that all families are needed. However, we need a prophetic cry in churches…we need pastors… we need our seminaries… we need our denomination to demand us to bring in young families. To steal from a recent cry in culture… YOUNG FAMILIES MATTER! Yes, all families matter but in our denomination where it is common knowledge to see more grey hairs then blonde we must address the loss in our church.
The buzzword that makes us Presbyterian cringe is “attractional.” I am not suggesting we roll out the fog machines but Jesus knew how to draw a crowd by welcoming, feeding, healing, and helping the community. Why is it that the church is not drawing young families? Is it possible that young families don't see the church as a place that is welcoming, healing, and helping their needs? Young families are not targets they are people… and sadly they are people we are missing in church because too often we say church is for everyone without recognizing who isn’t there and asking “why?”
Sadly, I agree, most pastors will fail at “Bringing in Young Families,” but not because of the reasons that were stated in the article. I have experienced too many churches in our denomination not doing the difficult work of making room for young families. They have closed their nurseries, ended Sunday programs, and dismissed youth from their budget line items. Let’s be honest, the “cultural shift” we need from our pastors and in our congregations involves our approach to young families. For example, if we are going to highlight Carey Nieuwhof for his insights we need to consider his methodologies too. Carey pastors a multi-site 1,000+ church that many of us would consider attractional in its approach (http://connexuschurch.com/about-us/). How might we enter a healthy, theological conversation that incorporates the practices of growing young churches? I am not suggesting that we give in to a pop-culture of entertainment. Rather, I am asking the church… I am asking pastors…. to dig in and find ways to bring young families to church like those that ran to Christ and were found welcomed.