A reflection on a pattern I’ve seen: I’ve been to a number of small town Baptist churches. Many of these churches are small in number with a membership long in the tooth, if you catch my drift. Sensibly, they’re keenly aware of just how precariously their future, longterm, generational existence as a church is situated. If they will be a church in 30 years, they need new blood in the pews. They feel a pressure to appeal to the “younger generation”. And they act on that pressure.
Oftentimes, these churches arrive in such a situation as a consequence of issues pertaining to the family. When the elderly were younger, did they have big or small families? Did they take discipline and family religion seriously? Additionally, did those fathers blaze the kind of economic trail that sons could follow? Did these fathers start businesses for their sons to take over so that, as those sons come of age, they can visualize what it would mean to stay in that small town instead of moving to a bigger city? Have fathers so labored as to equip their sons to be able to establish their own families in the same place they were raised. Without this kind of approach to life from Christian men, small town churches shouldn’t be surprised to see young blood get bled off, and the girls, needing to find men to marry, following that exodus.
That gets to some surface practicals of how to avoid the situation in the first place. But, what’s to be done if your church already finds itself in that diminishing bind? A common response is to appeal to a potentially non-existing demographic of young folk by playing a bunch of 7-11 songs (7 words, 11 times). Again and again, I walk into sanctuaries where old folks who most certainly did not grow up singing these songs stand there, mumbling their way through the most ho hum lyrics, expecting youth to rise up from the carpet or something.
That doesn’t work. Lame songs may attract something, but it for sure will be lame, whatever it is. Want to draw and keep youth? Be powerful and show power. How? Go to the throne room of Christ’s heavenly city every week, look at Christ there on His throne, point all the gathered to Him, and only sing what is fearsomely, reverently pertinent to His awesome presence.