Recently, a cousin of mine, brought my mother an old article he had saved from 1988. The article was from The Churchman, what is today called Anglican Life. In the article, my brother, Kerry, had been a youth representative for synod that year. He wrote about feeling intimidated by all the bishops and senior clergy attending the synod. His job was to report on what the youth of his diocese were doing. Kerry commented in 1988 that it was very important to involve the youth in church decision making so that the youth would have experience running the church. Involving the youth would simplify the process of retiring parishioners from key positions on the vestry for example. Almost 35 years ago, my brother felt that youth should be involved in the decision-making committees of the churches and the dioceses. He said “youth would gain a feeling of importance and sense of belonging, essential ingredients in maintaining interest” in the church. At the time he was a young teacher, just starting out and I wonder how much of an impression he made during the 1988 synod? Was his message heard? Did those in charge of the synod that year begin to include young people in the “workings” of the church, beyond what was seen during a church service on Sunday?
On any given Sunday in 2022, the number of people attending churches have diminished significantly. Some of the attendance issue is due to the pandemic as people are still concerned about gatherings that involve multiple households. Elderly parishioners in particular are concerned about health issues which can be made more difficult if they catch the new virus. Although the public is being told to learn to live with the virus, for people who have other health issues, the decision to attend public events becomes more onerous.
Before the pandemic, attendance was down in most churches anyway because fewer and fewer young people have been attending church. In today’s world, young people are encouraged to become involved in church activities, yet many do not. So how do we encourage young people to want to become involved with the church?
Today’s young people will put all their effort into projects which have a clear end goal. Young people today like to see their participation in activities show direct results. Maybe if churches chose one project a month, for example, which had a clear beginning, middle and end, it would show young people that as a group they did something for someone which affected the recipient’s daily life.
Jesus Christ didn’t do large miracles, instead, he chose to change the lives of people whom many didn’t deem worthy of such efforts at the time. Jesus worked with mostly sinners who were considered to be lost causes. Jesus changed one life at a time instead of grand gestures that I’m sure He was very capable of doing. Maybe if churches showed young people the massive difference God’s love can make in the lives of one or two people at a time, young people would feel more connected to the good work churches do.
There are millions of Christians around the world today, but Christianity began with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus built his followers one person at a time and maybe if we used that strategy today, we could rebuild our churches with young people: one young person at a time, one project at a time, one example of God’s love at a time!
God bless you all!