How can we meet?
I’ve gone door-to-door in a local neighbourhood a few times to invite people to activities we’re hosting at All Saints. I get a mixed response – mostly positive, but some hesitant and a small handful who are, outright, “not interested.” For this person who tends to lean more towards the introverted side of the spectrum, this kind of activity – going door-to-door to invite people to a church event – is rather draining.
We’re in a different age than we used to be. And connecting with people is different than it used to be. I attended a friend’s wedding in the past year and, in the story about how the couple met, they said they met online. That was strange fifteen years ago, sort of odd ten years ago, but I think it’s probably common now. It may become one of the primary ways people meet down-the-road. Face-to-face contact doesn’t happen as readily these days.
When it comes to church, I think there’s also an aversion to engaging with concepts around life, death, living with integrity, and whether a given church is expecting its adherents to subscribe to a set of beliefs (many of which may be assumed and not clear) or a way of life (also something that may not always be clear). …and if that set of beliefs or way of life is open to variations of the norm or whether its restrictive to a particular list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.”
I have a theory… My theory is that younger people have no experience of church, and so they wouldn’t know what it offers or, really, what it’s about. My hunch is that the vast majority of people 35 or 40 years old, or younger, have no memory of church because they probably didn’t go to Sunday School, and they may not have even been baptized – so there’s likely not even a picture in the house of them in church. So the skepticism of, or aversion to, church is understandable. Certainly, in our 21st Century, western culture, people still know something about church from media and movies, but it tends to be superficial (eg. a beautiful, backyard wedding with a token preacher to lead the couple through the “I dos” in a Hollywood hit) or negative (eg. the recent news about the Pope’s past where he covered up abuses carried out by priests). …so, given this climate and attitude about church in our culture, why would young people approach the church, and why would they willingly trust people in it?
So, if I – as a pastor and representative of a church – want to meet you, how might we go about it? Will you be happy to see me on your doorstep? Do you want to see me wearing my clerical collar, or will that make you feel uncomfortable? Will you seek me out online – be it on a social networking site, or my congregation’s website? Will you actively engage in conversation about what we believe, and trust that whatever you say or ask won’t be laughed at or judged? Are you wondering about things in the church – be they the abuses of the church throughout the centuries, or why we use words about sacrifice in our services, for example – are you curious? …because if you are willing and interested to talk with me, I am very interested to talk with you!