I discovered I wanted to be a pastor about fifteen years ago. It was a rather cliché moment, something you’d come to expect from a typical “calling.” We had a Youth Sunday at church (one of those Sundays where the youth take over the entire church service). Being the only teen willing to speak in front of the congregation, I got up and gave my message.
Afterwords, many of the older ladies and a few older men came up to me and said I had a gift. They believed I could be a pastor. They believed I could lead people.
Fifteen years later, I’m wondering: where are the people?
I discovered that my generation doesn’t want a pastor about a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, some of my generation do go to church. But I’ve discovered that for many of those people, church is this place you go to catch up with the friends you couldn’t see during the week. Worshiping God, strengthening the soul, confession one’s sins, and even participating in the sacraments are all but forgotten. I can’t tell you the number of churches I’ve been to that treat communion like it’s a side attraction, designated to that once-in-a-while back-of-the-church thing you do as you walk out the doors.
The churches I’ve visited do have people in them, I suppose. But most of them are Baby Boomers and Elders. There are some Generation X. But Millennials? We don’t even like being called that, let alone being so cliché as calling ourselves Christians.
The truth is, church isn’t the same anymore. It’s no longer a part of our culture. Sundays are for sleeping in. Wednesdays are for working or catching up with friends, for sports or TV. The Sabbath stopped being a day of potlucks and Bible studies, laughter and praise. Is now a day of football and work, sports and getting yard work done. Why would a young person claim Christianity as part of their identity when their parents don’t, either?
I’m finding myself getting more and more depressed. I want to be a pastor, but I’m finding that the dwindling number of career positions are filled. There’s always more like me waiting in the wings, waiting to be a leader in a church that seems less and less a part of our culture.
I asked a friend tonight what he believed would draw young people back to the church. His first reaction was to note that young people don’t want to be drawn in. They don’t want to be reached out to. Young people don’t believe in absolute truth or hope, so telling them that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life is yet another falsehood that leads them to an eventual destination of despair.
Young people don’t want to be drawn in. They don’t want to be reached out to.
I realized I’m a Baby Boomer pastor. I see myself standing at the pulpit on Sundays, worrying about my flock and nurturing into their lives. But I have no flock. I have no pulpit. I see that people my age and younger have lost faith in the church.
And who can blame them? When politicians invoke the name of Jesus and take away government funded programs that leave our friends and family starving, who wants to be associated with that? When churches barely mention the tragedies in our own country, let alone the rest of the world, who believes they actually care? When tithing baskets are passed around each Sunday but most young adults can barely put money away for their unexpected expense—let alone retirement—what feels like a community then?
Who do I lead when nobody comes to church?