“Surprise! I’m not going to church right now.” Recently I gave a fellow struggling Christian author a complimentary copy of my Reality Check book for her review and asked her to pass it on to her pastor when she was though with it. She looked embarrassed and confessed that she wasn’t going to church right now. She had moved across town a few years back and not found a place that she was at home in. This is someone whose day job involved handling difficult people and doing boring repetitive things because you are responsible for getting it done. She wasn’t someone who flaked out on her commitments. She was committed to Christ. Finding a new church, however, had become a chore she didn’t feel like tackling.
There is a wonderful article at Ministry Matters comparing the declining participation in mainline denominational churches with the problem MacDonald's is having attracting millennials (the current generation of young adults, who came of age after Y2K). Many churches are in decline because are not only failing to reach this generation, but they also have very few busters (34 to 50 year olds), and only half of the boomers.
My writer friend, a boomer, was willing to accept the frailties of the church that she attended as a young adult, but having moved to a new location, she hasn’t reconnected. I offered her the name of a local church in her denomination (not mine) that I knew to be ‘high quality’ and currently free of obvious problems. These must-haves are hard to find and even harder to produce when you are responsible for fixing your own.
Later, I found myself wondering how to provide what she really needed; a reason to return to church. In her case, there was a interest group (writers), that if a church sponsored, she would attend. In my own situation, as someone who spends about a quarter of the Sundays on the road each year, having churches provide better information about their services for strangers on their websites would increase my attendance. Better yet, I wish someone would make an app that connected travelers with worship services, as Urban Spoon does for restaurants.
I imagine that there are a variety of reasons Christians aren’t in church this Sunday. It is worth it for those in church leadership to listen to individual stories. There are many that we can’t help. But, if we train our hearts to be service oriented we might find the Holy Spirit using us.