David Lose gave an excellent workshop at Luther Seminary’s Mid-Winter Convocation a couple weeks ago. The following is a brief synopsis of it.

Lose observes that the older generation often asks this question: “Why don’t my kids (and grandkids) go to church anymore?” The question tends to have an unspoken fear attached to it. “Is it my fault? What did I do wrong?”

Lose assures them. It isn’t your fault.

The culture has changed. There is no more Sabbath in our society. People are on the go all the time. School sports are scheduled during the weekends. The average person typically moves more often and has more opportunity to travel than in times past. The average American doesn’t know the Bible stories anymore.
We are homo narrans (humans as story-tellers). We believe the stories that we tell ourselves. The stories that formed the church of the 40s and 50s is a different story than the stories people tell themselves today.Lose offers three reasons why it is this way:

  1. We no longer have the support of our culture. People don’t learn Bible stories by watching TV or in school like they did in the 50s and 60s. It simply isn’t part of the American culture anymore because the world is truly pluralistic now. There are multiple stories and scriptures that form faith communities, so none of them dominate the public culture.
  2. We have moved from the age of Duty and Obligation to the Age of Discretion. The people of the 20s-50s responded out of duty to country and family, because that was the main option. People today have so many choices of what to do with their time and where to place their allegiance that they have to prioritize. They will choose the things that seem to make the biggest difference in their lives and in the world. It’s not necessarily that they are selfish, but they have more choices.
  3. We are drowning in a sea of stories. Everywhere you look there Symbols have lost their cultural power.

What do we do about it? We need to reconsider:

  1. Our situation. Rather than see things (like the church) as a problem to be solved, think of it as a mystery to be explored. Embrace curiosity.
  2. Intelligence. What if knowledge is not about what you DO know, but about knowing what you DON’T know and asking better questions. The greatest thing we can do for the younger generations is to embrace their questions.
  3. Faith. The church and family should be a safe place where kids can have the space to grow.
  4. Church. We tend to think of church as a performance where we watch the professionals do what they do best. What if we thought of it as a community music school, or a practice field.
  5. Evangelism. Whose responsibility is it to share the faith? Listen to your kids stories and share yours.
  6. Competent Pastoral Performance. We shouldn’t think of pastors as the professionals—like doctors and lawyers—who are the go-to-people for ministry. We should think of them as coaches. They should be evaluated, not by how well they do ministry, but by how much the congregation improves at doing ministry.
Tomorrow morning I speak at our Graceful Seniors Breakfast. I plan to share this with them. This is a question that they ask often. Hopefully it will give them something positive to think about.

These are the notes I took during the workshop:


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