Younger generations prefer human contact

Here’s a magical quote from Dear Church. Letters from a Disillusioned generation, by Sarah Cunningham. Even if it is slightly American, I think it works everywhere. See what you think of it, but for me it is another proof that media gimmicks and contemporary music are not enough for a new reformation of the church. Something else is needed.

“Thanks to our rapid culture, it can be easy to assume that twentysomethings crave a church of constantly changing flash animation and live-action video footage. But I should let you in on a secret: while twentysomethings appreciate and are familiar with multilayered technology, we are actually very skeptical of our media-driven advertising-crazed world.

Quite the opposite, twentysomethings want our God and our faith to be different from and more real than special effects and airbrushed images on our TV screens. We don’t want to feel like we worship on an Americal Idol set. We don’t want the offering spiel to come off like a host introducing the next phase of a reality TV show. And we don’t want the morning message to rival infomercials with quick promises to improve our lives overnight.

We are seeking the actual God – the one who created the entire universe from dust – and we don’t think that he has to wait on the next MTV fad or Microsoft update to deliver fresh spiritual experiences.

So please, service design teams, on behalf of twentysomethings everywhere, if you have strobe lights flashing, that’s cool. But while the sanctuary is caught up in your makeshift lighting storm, please don’t also ask us to watch swirling words or blinking images on a screen. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, dizzyness is not the new ‘cool’ way to experience God…

You know what does get our attention? Put real-live humans in front of us and have them tell us about their real lives.

While many twentysomethings roll their eyes at any new label, including emergent, emergent church proponents excel at communicating from their real lives. Their emphasis on storytelling goes over well with my generation if it is carried out authentically.

Be careful though. The kind of stories that engage twentysomethings involves more than just Googling the words ‘funny story’ and retelling some amusing online news article as a sermon illustration. As much as we like those clever introductory stories that are designed to grab our attention, we don’t usually remember the sermon topic as much as we remember your facial expression as you described what it was like to fly off your four-wheeler into a pile of manure.

On the other hand, tell us what it was like when you had to make a decision about whether or not to marry the person you were dating, tells us about how you persevered after being crushed by some terrible hardship, tell us how you figured out what the heck you were supposed to do with your life, and we will remember what you say forever.”

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4 thoughts on “Younger generations prefer human contact

  1. You are reading a great book. It makes a lot of sense. Maybe that’s why this is so hard to grasp by church people, who have a propensity for unreality.
    I hope you will be a different kind of clergyman. Otherwise I will utterly disappointed.

  2. These observations fit in with my experience as a counsellor, it is genuine human contact that my clients are looking for, if only we had the openness and courage to be real!

  3. People want to meet a real, loving God. They want to hear how other folk found him and their experience of him. Singing hymns, thinking about prayers, listening to a sermon, won’t do any good, unless they help people to meet God. It doesn’t need to be flashy, but it does need to be enjoyable, as well as real!

  4. I think the only way to experience the reality of God is to fully experience the incarnation. The church hasn’t yet grasped the reality of the ‘word became flesh and dwelt among us’. We still think a relationship with God is an airy fairy pie in the sky kind of thing, when Jesus keeps pointing us to each-other as hypostasis of himself – When we do the least of these, you do unto me. It’s a very down to earth kind of thing. It’s painfully real, which is why it’s so much avoided, and people prefer spiritual stuff detached from reality.

    @Danut

    Yeah, I hear ya! I’m also concerned that I don’t get sucked into the clergy status quo. I doubt there’s much chance of that, though, I’m too restless and rebelious…

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