I read an article this week interviewing college students about their hopes for the future of the Church. As one who spends his life not only trying to reach this generation of the church but also listening to them, I thought it important to share some of these hopes.
It is important because it is a bit overzealous to jump to the conclusion that college students are leaving their faith all together when many of them are simply leaving your churches. It is important to reveal their HOPES in the shadow the ASSUMPTIONS we commonly have about them. If we were really concerned with why they were leaving, we would listen to THEM.
4 Hopes Students Have for the Church:
Community and relationships become vital Relationship, relationship, relationship. This generation is far more focused on getting to know people's stories before being concerned with converting them. They hope for a church that is driven by being a community and serving its community. This is a church that is outrageously generous and hospitable. This is a church that does not compartmentalize the rest of their lives, but understands church is how we live not part of me I engage on Sundays.
Unity over separation This generation vehemently resists the separation mentality, and they will not participate in a Church which maintains that mentality. They resist the separation people 'different' from one another. They not only resist, but are simply baffled by the separation of church from church. Believe it or not, they resist separation of old and young.
There is hope in this generation for a church where the younger are engaged by and with the older, but there is a very important realization here that most of your churches are drastically missing. This means much more than just wanting to be discipled by someone older. This means this generation wants to be and needs to be engaged in the direction and vision of the church. This means, practically, your elders should want to hear from them. They should be a part of the church, not simply have Church dictated to them...which comes a large deal out of the next hope...
Lighten up a bit They hope to see a Church not so worked up over a rigid structure. They hope for Church to provide space for questions and ways to help translate theology into practical and understandable methodology. Listen, this generation IS excited about the gospel and truth, but they want to really think, pray, and study instead of simply being told what gospel and truth is...so yes, this generation DOES have a huge hope for...
Outreach and Evangelism They are excited about the gospel and seeing the gospel realized in this world. Understand that they look at scripture and they see beyond redemption to restoration. They desire to see restoration of what is broken with each of us and within this world. This generation hopes for a focus not only on "the decision" but also past the decision to follow Jesus. Again, relationships become vital here. They are more concerned with relationships than converts, because as you come to really know someone, they can speek the true restoration of the gospel into people's true stories and lives.
Overall, it is important to realize that I am not speaking here about 'the church of tomorrow'. I hate that phrase nearly more than any other. No body has future parts; neither does the body of Christ. This generation realizes this and is tired of being treated like future parts.