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By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Oct 12 in Musings
This week I was with a pastor friend who, like me, has kids in their 20’s. At some point in our conversation he blurted out “When is the Church going to realize that young people aren’t interested in talking about the Church, but they are interested in talking about God?”
I kept thinking about that question. It definitely highlights a generational shift.  For many younger people “the Church” means tradition, an institution, an emphasis on rules and a lot of time talking about things that don’t seem to matter in the real world.  It also highlights what is true for many Christian people of all ages- it is safer and more comfortable to talk about Church than it is to talk about God.  Think about it.

When we are around people of faith, conversation easily defaults to safe topics like choosing elders, budgetary concerns, church property, the color of the carpet, the choir’s music selection or feelings about a new staff person. It takes more effort to ask what someone is learning about God, listen to a faith story or offer to pray with them.

When we are around people who don’t believe in God, the scenario is actually quite similar.  The safe defaults are to talk about children or workplace issues or the news or the Dodgers. If you bring up the Church, it references the institution and is usually described in impersonal terms- oh yes, my church does such and such- as though it were a nonprofit you support rather than a community you belong to. And most often, God is not a focal point.  Even religion or spirituality are easier to float in conversation than following Jesus or faith in God.

Older generations can learn from younger ones here. Young people tend to find authentic talk about God far more interesting than details about an institution, and hands-on ministry more compelling than a church mission statement.  At the same time, younger generations might discover that budgets, buildings and planning are meant to serve as critical supports for hands-on ministry.

So I guess we really do need each other. And the next time you catch yourself talking “Church,” see if you can connect that to “God.”
 
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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