The New Church
From the Silent Generation to the new Generation Z, how can the 2021 church serve and minister to each generation? Coming out of the Pandemic world, “church” is being redefined. Our worship services are designed for the “go to church” generations of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers and we may find it challenging to fully resurrect them to solely in-person.
Who is presently reporting a church affiliation? Church membership is strongly correlated with age, as 66% of traditionalists -- U.S. adults born before 1946 -- belong to a church, compared with 58% of baby boomers, 50% of those in Generation X and 36% of millennials.[i] Gen Z are just now reaching adulthood, and some say they will follow a similar path as the millennials. Others choose to differ saying Gen Z will not be rushing into the formal setting of church due to the wave of secularism that began with the millennials.[ii]
As the church settles post-pandemic, we are left with a new hybrid church. Options for people to view online worship and/or in-person remain for many congregations. Pastors struggle to fill buildings, because numbers were the measure of a successful church, in the past. Generational differences and preferences are making a huge impact on where the church will settle. “While according to one survey, 71% of Boomers preferred physical worship as opposed to the digital or hybrid church, only 41% of Gen Z preferred physical worship. Everyone other than Boomers had a preference for hybrid (a combination of in-person and digital gathering) or digital gatherings.”[iii] The argument that people are “zoomed” out or tired of viewing online is not playing out if you watch the rise in popularity of Tik Tok and Instagram.
Going forward, some believe we will need a strong commitment to building community. Connection is key to what we call church. Church, after all, is not the building. It is the people. All people of all generations. It’s not our generational differences or expectations or comfort level that draw us to church, it is Christ and our relationship with Him and the body of Christians. It may take a strong force of “Paul’s” to be willing to go out to the people. “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God “. (Romans 1:1) Paul carried the message of Jesus and began gathering small groups of those who chose to believe. They met together and supported one another and shared what they had. Ephesians 2:20 reminds us Christ Jesus is the cornerstone.[iv]
Are we ready for more change? Can we equip our leaders to embrace it and our members to ride that wave of change? As 2021 rolls on, many growing churches will see off-facility attendance (home participation, micro-gatherings and distributed gatherings) eclipse facility-based attendance: the number of people participating in the mission who are not in the building on a Sunday will surpass the number of people participating in the mission inside the building.[v] Like the early apostles, “they went out and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”(Mark 16:20)
Build from the cornerstone and see where God will bless the church.
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[i] https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx [ii] https://religionnews.com/2021/08/30/ok-millennial-dont-blame-the-boomers-for-decline-of-religion-in-america/ [iii] https://careynieuwhof.com/8-disruptive-church-trends-that-will-rule-2021-the-rise-of-the-post-pandemic-church/ [iv] Ephesians 2:20 [v] https://careynieuwhof.com/8-disruptive-church-trends-that-will-rule-2021-the-rise-of-the-post-pandemic-church/