This Generation Really Does Want Something Different from Church than Our Grandparents Did

brokenEvery generation wrings its hands about the next generation.

Their ideas seem so strange. They don’t appreciate the sacrifices of those who came before them. You know, the same complaints your parents had about you.

But this current generational shift is different than previous ones.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of the Church Growth Movement, megachurches and program-driven ministries happened on the heels of two world wars.

In World Wars I & II, top-down systems and structures provided the tools that helped the Allies save the world – twice! Then, through the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill and other massive commitments of people and resources, they rebuilt the world they had saved.

Highly dependable, structured systems provided a sense of security and stability in a fractured world.


Structures and Systems Came at a Cost

While those top-down methods and machines gave us structure, what most people didn’t realize was that they were also promoting the slow erosion of relationships. 

No, we’re not quite living in the world depicted in the TV shows and movies of the 1950s and ’60s – with machines replacing people in a fully-automated, Jetsons-like, society. (Where is my flying car, by the way?!) But, to a larger degree than we realized, systems and structures have undermined true relationships.

We have access to more people and information than ever before. But we’re more lonely and less trusting of our neighbors, too.

So, yes. What this current generation needs, including what they need from church, is different than what our grandparents needed. And those needs may not be met by the churches our grandparents built.

Our grandparents took relationships for granted and needed to build structures.

Our kids and grandkids take those structures for granted and need to build relationships.

Structures still matter, of course. They always will.

But relationships matter more. And they always should.


Keep Relationships the Priority

If you minister in a Small Church, don’t neglect good systems and structures. Make and keep them solid. But structures need to support relationships, not vice versa.

Small Churches are not necessarily better at relationships than bigger churches. But, because of our size, it’s more important for us to put them front and center.

When people – especially younger people – choose to worship in a Small Church, it’s not because of our awesome programs. They can get those anywhere – and at a much higher level than we can do them.

They’re not coming to our churches for systems and structures. They’re coming because they want a place that focuses on relationships.

Let’s give them what they’re coming for. Because, in this instance, it also happens to be what Jesus said we should be all about.


With Jesus.

With people who love Jesus.

And with people who love each other.


So what do you think? What is your church doing to meet people’s relationship needs?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Broken Face photo from asboluv • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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1 thought on “This Generation Really Does Want Something Different from Church than Our Grandparents Did”

  1. What is your church doing to meet people’s relationship needs? Our church is helping people recognize that our relationship needs are not what we think they are, what tradition has said they are or what we consider our preferences. Our needs for relationship are what God say’s they are. Sadly even though we are all Bible believers, we look at God’s revelation through the lens of tradition and our preferences and miss almost completely what He asks for. I say almost because often just a meager amount of what God asks for can be combined with a large portion of tradition and our preferences to result in a tragic reality that we all call holy and good.

    After being born and raised in a Bible believing church, being a golden layman and even preparing for “the ministry”, I realized that I was “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” even though I was in in the room every week. (Heb. 10:24,25) I realized that “meeting together” is not described here as sitting in a pew and facing a pulpit for a Bible lecture and singing all driven from the platform. This specifies believers coming prepared to spur and encourage in “one another” dynamic. “Let us consider” means prepare Monday through Saturday. I was doing the opposite of this unless I was teaching Sunday School, but even then I was the only one in the class coming prepared to articulate faith to build others. I want every believer to be blessed by God’s instructions. The NT adds on to these “one another” functions many more. Even if our church had small groups that met at other times and pushed them as very important, only 25% or less participated and most of those came unprepared to build or preferred groups with a dominant leader. Others wanted a group of saints in a very small niche just like them. Very few had any confidence that God made them to build the faith of others and cross age, culture and other boundaries. Very few realized God desires them to pass on to others what He desires to give them Monday through Saturday. If you look at the verses before you see Jesus died to provide for us a “new and living way”. This is “let us draw near…” and “let us hold fast our confession of faith…” and then the results will be we will “consider how we can spur or stir up one another and encourage one another”. This changed everything about church life. Every Sunday, even the children are prepared with scripture and spurring to share. It is powerful! It is highly relational. It is church all week. As I share these concepts with saints they usually cling to their tradition or preferences. Since I’m just a messenger, not the judge at the end of the day, I just deliver the truth and pray for fruit.

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