Archive for February, 2012

How to rid the church of young people

Posted: February 20, 2012 by efenster in Ideas

The following is a tongue-in-cheek commentary from Ben Boruff, an active lay member of the Indiana Conference and a leader in the denomination.  You can read his entire article by going to UM Portal.  — Ed Fenstermacher

Here are Ben’s comments…

The following strategies should, if executed properly, help to permanently distance any aging church from young people. 

1) Bore young people with vague affection. Talk often about loving young people, but never let that love result in anything tangible. Occasionally, you may be tempted to verbally scorn young people and drive them from your halls with acolyte sticks and hymnals. Resist. Young people are resilient and stubborn, and antagonizing them may give them reason to advocate for change. Instead, pretend you love young people, and talk often about the excitement you feel when you see them on Sunday. But when they express needs or have ideas, ignore them. Eventually, young people will feel both loved and worthless, and the latter feeling will cause them to leave the church. 

2) Do not, under any circumstance, ask young people what they want. When asked what they want, young people often answer honestly. They don’t have the decency to hide desires behind fake smiles. If you ask what they want, they will expect you to give it to them. If young people are offered the worship and fellowship environments they want, they may flock to church. Better to restrict idea-giving to seniors. 

3) Refit traditional services with guitars and muffins, but change nothing else. “Contemporary” services can be created as halfhearted gestures to young people. Offering sugary food and upbeat music without asking young people what types of food and music they prefer is like giving a friend a ride without asking where he wants to go. 

4) Fill the church with references to past generations. Old paintings. Dated jokes. Allusions to cancelled television programs. Sermon illustrations that involve outdated technology. A barrage of generation-specific references will drive away even the most devout young person. 

5) Refuse to acknowledge today’s pop culture. Follow this rule: If you can’t say something bad, don’t say anything at all. Ignore Iron Man. Shun Sufjan Stevens. Avoid Apatow. Nix Nicki Minaj. Overlook online games. Forget Family Guy

6) Use the phrase “does not condone” as much as possible. These words are nails on a chalkboard to most young people. If you must choose between “We advocate for” and “We do not condone,” pick the latter every time. Condemnation is the Church’s youth repellent. 

7) Whenever possible, remind young people that they are, indeed, young people. Sometimes youth must be reminded that they are not high on the Christian hierarchy. Mention how happy you are that someone of “their age” wants to be involved. Like dulling a work of art with camera flashes, overemphasizing a young person’s age can ruin her or his spark. 

8) Be unapologetically nostalgic. Talk often about when things were better, the days when the birds sang and politicians had class. As we know, the circumstances in which young people are immersed offer nothing good. Speak nostalgically often enough, and young people will see the church for what it rightfully is—a time capsule. 

These guidelines will help any church rid itself of young people. Feel free to share them with mission teams, book clubs and church choirs. But please move quickly. If I’m going to leave the church someday, I’d rather leave now and give myself time to find a more welcoming community. 

Ben Boruff, a senior at Indiana University, is a member of the UMC’s Connectional Table and served on the Call to Action Steering Committee.  He is active in the Indiana Conference.

Small church moving to former car dealership

Posted: February 2, 2012 by efenster in Stories

“Mr. Angel, tear down this wall!”  That was the clarion call when Jack Angel, the patriarch of Black’s Chapel UMC in Mount Vernon, wielded a large sledgehammer to demolish a solid block wall.  That wall was located in a recently purchased building that is being re-purposed by the members of Black’s Chapel. 

 The building is a 19,200 sq. ft former car dealership that is being retrofitted for worship.  The new facility at 1800 West 4th Street represents a quantum leap from the current tiny country church.  In fact, our current church building is so small that in 2003, we had to move to the adjoining fellowship hall for worship.

 This move was not an easy thing to do since most of the seasoned members have emotional connections to the chapel.  Those connections are deep and include life events and much sweat equity.

 For the past 10 years, Pastor Lester Howard has led the congregation on a difficult journey of growth, both spiritual and in number, urging the body of believers to move to a more visible location.  With much consternation, the  congregation first purchased land on the east side of town and planned to build a new sanctuary but God, who moves in mysterious ways, lit a path to another new site in a very prominent location. 

 Subsequently, the glass showroom sanctuary is scheduled to be opened April 8, 2012 – Easter!  Pastor Howard was presented with a plaque stating that the sanctuary in the new church will be dedicated in his honor.

 When Jack Angel helped in tearing down that wall, he was also tearing down generational walls.  One of the older members remarked, “We see you working hard on the new church.  Now you know what we did and how we feel.”  All the members of this tiny congregation are excited and agree that this move is going to lead to good things.  In fact, just from the visible activity at the new site, we have acquired several new friends that have joined our worship service.

 Another added benefit with purchasing such a large property with more space and buildings than we currently need, was the opportunity to help another Christian organization, Young Life.  We have given them the use of a separate building (formerly the Body Shop), which they are renovating and using rent free.

Written by Don Viviano, member of Black’s Chapel UMC