How many young adults need to leave the church before we realize we're the ones pushing them out?
The church I know is a place of love, faith, and found family. No human entity is perfect. All fall short of that call, but as we continue to push away generations of people, we need to begin the discussion around why and how we come to terms with us being the problem and not the solution.
So what is it that pushes away these people? Why are young adults walking away from the church? I believe it is because the church fails us all pretty often and continuously doesn't meet the needs of the people sitting in the pews and beyond the building itself.
One thing I find happening pretty consistently is that the church has become antagonistic to people beyond the pews. The church as a whole has become hostile to differing views, opinions, and change happening around them. Now, I'm not saying every church is rooted in this, but this is how the church is being present to culture as a whole.
Think of all the things Christian Culture has made society believe are unacceptable: other faiths beliefs or religions, accepting and truly affirming our LGBTQ+ siblings, abortion, non cis men leading church, doubting God, experiencing God beyond certain settings, immodest dress for women, even movie ratings, and so many more. The church seems to be more concerned about what they believe others should not do than listening to God's call to love and accept one another. We live in world that loves to tell us no rather than yes, and the church is no different right now.
Christians of the West have come to a point where we're so concerned with not loving others that their hostility has lead them to even back track laws, despite the belief in separation of church and state. The church is alienating the world and continuing to push their beliefs on people who have deaf ears now. Protest, ignore, antagonize - this is what the world thinks of the church. Who would look at this church, claiming to love everyone, but full of hypocrisy and double standards, and choose to join that movement? Instead they walk away and towards something else... failing the people beyond the pews.
Second, the church isn't diving deep enough into the word, history, and context of what Christ calls us into. More and more we hear sermons that are lacking any real depth, but rather regurgitated lessons that aren't helping us truly grow any further in God's word. So often Christians miss the reality of the word because they only hear cherry picked sections and verses rather than entire story lines. Sermons can feel empty or focuses on the wrong message.
To me this is what happens when people become pastors who are educated in only one specific way, rather than offering a diverse education to people. To be clear, I recognize education to be a privilege and not accessible to everyone. As someone who has pursued a Masters program at a Divinity School, I recognize the great work and cost of doing something like this - but I also am a proponent that we need a qualification process for people who want to work with others, especially vulnerable adults and children! Questioning someone's call does not have to be mean hearted, but should be confirming they are going into the process of leading ministry programs for the right reason, are safe to be around, and have a deep enough and diverse understanding to lead a congregation.
When we limit leaders into one specific mold, which for many churches in the West looks like white, cis men, from an evangelical context, we limit the growth and potential of the church to reach out to new communities and people. Therefore failing the people beyond the walls of the church.
I recognize that I'm not sitting here offering solutions, but I think the first step in making any change has to be recognition, and I believe we're still far from that. I want more from the Western church than it is giving us right now, and I do believe it is possible, but not without major change, upheaval, and admittance of our failure.