After Youth Group
Attending church in your early 20s.
CC: What message do young people hear in church?
Rozema: We are told that young people don’t know enough to take part in church planning. Thankfully, I belong to a church in Hamilton, Ont. that has created a way to counteract this by creating young people’s Bible studies. These groups are run by and include young people, promoting leadership within the community and on the church board as well.
What role does technology play between generations?
Technology promotes connection and communication, yet all too often it becomes the wedge it was designed to fix. Instagram, Snapchat and the “tweetisphere” claim the attention of young people’s social lives but go unmentioned in church. We need sermons, small groups, and Bible studies that explore these topics for all generations.
It’s not helpful to assume that something new is bad based on a limited understanding of it. In my early teen years, for example, the Bible App was first introduced to my home church. There was confusion and a great deal of disagreement between my younger pastor and my church, most of whom were of the older generation. It ended up taking close to three years before it was appropriate for our pastor to take out his phone to read the main verse. Eventually, their worries faded.
What do you wish older people knew about what it’s like to be a Christian in your 20s today?
We are saturated with content and information from our phones, the internet and all platforms of tech. It’s difficult to explain to older generations what that’s like. I would suggest a practical sermon series, brochure, or some way of communication that would offer this reality to the older generation. The truth is that the hold of tradition on the church might not be as helpful for younger generations who experience “truth-telling” information all day every day. With so many truths circulating in our lives as young people, older generations need to adopt a gracious and supportive stance as we attempt to claim Christianity as our primary source of truth in life.
Simpler times called for simpler traditions and practices for church goers to adhere to. Nowadays it isn’t so simple and a call for depth in understanding and grace is needed from older generations when engaging with young people in the church.
I would also stress the importance for churches to discuss topics such as sexuality, technology, and relationships – topics that are highly prevalent in Western culture today and about which very little is truly discussed within the church.
What contributes to generational gaps in church?
Part of it is the lack of relationships between my generation and my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We also seem to understand church teachings differently. Sometimes it’s difficult for us [young people] to combine our life ambitions with the teachings of the church. Church traditions seem to take a backseat with their routine and faith-based content in a world that praises instant gratification.
The truth is, Christianity is not a set of beliefs meant to be carried out alone. We all desire and need a community. Ageism causes generational gaps that are not only physical (not spending time together), but also emotional and even spiritual.
Would God not have his people seek first his kingdom within their community? The church is not a building, it’s a people; it’s not an attendance record but a welcoming home. Let’s remember what matters most in a community and what our role is within it, age aside.
A Few More Thoughts
Christian Courier asked high school and university students whether they feel supported by their churches and what they thought Christians over 30 need to know about young believers. From five different locations across Canada, here are some of their heartfelt comments:
“We are more open to different types of people, less critical, less judgmental – and it doesn’t mean we approve of every lifestyle.”
“Mental health issues are real. The older generation gets mad at me when I have to leave church when I’m having a panic attack, like I should just suck it up.”
“When my family was going through a difficult time, church members made us meals. That was really good.”
“People at church can be too blunt, like ‘What’s that thing on your face?’ about my eyebrow piercing.”
“The world is not the same. People take different paths to find their own personal faith – it’s not the traditional step by step and then Profession of Faith at a certain age. It’s more like a journey; it has to feel real.”
“I am looking for a close community, not really a spectacular show of anything. I think my generation can struggle with loneliness, so going to a church that is close knit but warm and open to newcomers, that’s really nice.”
“We are serious, passionate and want to get involved, but we’re starving for good mentorship and discipleship! Young Christians like me have a lot of questions, and we have a lot of growing to do. We’re ready to serve, but it would be easier to get involved if the Church was intentional about good mentorship and discipleship in every ministry. If this kind of pattern became common place in churches, it would generate a multiplication effect that would develop more leaders, and bring growth to the Church in both depth and breadth!”