Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reminding Me (Us)

As the point person for our New Song worship, I have found myself on youtube and other media place listening to music and trying to figure out which songs to use for our worship. I came across this ditty while planning our last worship service. I really like this song.

I saw a stat the other day that said my denomination was down in membership about 5.9%. Yes, much of this has to do with the "split" in the church from 2009. At the same time, mainline protestant churches have been on the decline for quite a while. At a recent youth worker retreat, we tackeled the question about where our youth ministry was, where it is, and where it is going. Without getting into too much detail, I think it is fair to say that most of the conversation revolved around relavance. How is what we are doing relavent in peoples lives. How are we showing people that God is relavent in people's lives. I heard a sermon recently that essentially said to the congregation "you know the good news, go and share it". I don't believe this is true. As I looked around the room, I wondered, "how many people here really understand who God is and what this really means?" When I see stats like 7-8 % of people find their faith relavent in their daily life, did the people sitting in the pews get it? How are we talking to people about faith? Should we go and assume that people do understand when there has been a steep decline in not only church membership but the importance of people's faith in their lives? Does this change the way we are explaing the gospel to people?

I recently visited Wartbug College to continue preparation for the ELCA National Youth Gathering. A lot has changed on campus since I was there. For starters, there is a library. There is also a coffee shop in the library. It seems as though colleges are constantly changing. Why? Well, the demographics have changed, the way students learn has changed as well as what makes students choose one college over the other. Back in my day, there was not a widespread use of projectors, video, laptops, etc. In Luther College's new buildings, almost everyroom has its own projection system.

What has this taught me? It is not only the content we are teaching people, but also how we are passing along information. When students go to google with questions before their parents, it would appear the "how" is getting to be as important as the "what". We need to let go of "what used to be" and focus on the "what is the reality".

Why? There are students that don't really know who they are. There are students (and parents, people in their 20's, etc) who feel overwhelmed, confused, lost. There are students (and parents, people in their 20's etc) who do not understand there is a God who loves, cares for, and wants them to remeber who they are. That is our job. It means to do whatever it takes to help people remember who they are. It means meeting people where they are, not where we think they should be. It means the church need to change. (the reality is the church is constantly changing whether we like it or not, we just don't like to always acknowledge it).

Given that, the question for me is, how quickly do we push for change. Whether it be projectors in the sanctuary or the use of video in worship, it seems as though we are already behind. The new software program I am using for worship allows for "signals" to be sent to peoples iphones and ipads with things such as scripture readings. I really do struggle sitting still for any period of time beyond about 10 minutes. During worship I find myself looking around and crumpling up my bulletin. If I try to give a "talk" to my students at youth group and it goes beyond 5 - 10 minutes, I've lost them. (yes, part of it is me) but also that is NOT how students live out their lives. Heck, I had a student last night in-between drying dishes texting her bf. Even when I show a video at our senior high group, kids faces are lighting up from their cell phones. They are always connected. If we don't figure out a way to tap into that soon, we are going to fall even further behind and the 8% will drop even further.

So, how quickly do we push for change? We don't want to alienate people, but if we don't start to do something soon, I will begin to question how we "insiders" really view our faith and the impact it should have on peoples lives.

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