By Kellie-Ann Russell
I’m single. I’m a millennial, though I just discovered I fit into that category this year. I don’t have a solid attendance record at church. And I’m disturbed.
I’m not disturbed with the church. I’m not even upset with people who don’t go to church. I’m disturbed with a problem that’s been brewing between both sides of the argument.
On the one hand, many churches are distressed by the decline of millennials attending church. On the other, non-church goers (who may or may not be millennials) are indifferent or even seemingly fed up with the church. Their reasons are diverse, and fingers are being pointed in both directions, as well as a slew of articles seeking to “help” both sides.
I say “help” loosely because I’ve read articles on both sides that, while having some productive points, use snippets of language border-lining on accusatory. And here we are drifting further and further apart—church goers and non-church goers.
One such article from the church goers side was posted on the Boundless Show, a branch of Focus on the Family which hosts a podcast I listen to semi-religiously. On a certain blog post, I read this:
“Too often people use their freedom to float from place to place, avoiding conflict and discomfort and obligation. There is an unsettling, rising number of rover, easily-shaken Christians who will move on from a church for any number of silly reasons; perhaps the sermons are too long, there are too few programs, or they received some perceived slight at the church picnic.”
Then there’s the other side of the argument. Just last week, I came across this article written out of sheer frustration and clearly pain. (Go and read the whole thing. I don’t agree with everything that’s said, but it puts a perspective on the pain non-church goers are going through.)
And so we go back and forth addressing this “issue” when really it isn’t even the main problem. Maybe the problem isn’t millennials leaving the church or the church having undesirable qualities that causes people to leave.
Maybe our real problem is blame.
We’re blaming each other and it isn’t getting us anywhere. Maybe it’s time both sides came together and talked it out. Maybe we need to address what’s working and what’s not. We’re spitting out blog posts that come from one side or the other when we should be working together towards a solution.
How do you think roommates learn to live with each other? How do you suppose married couples stay together? Or how do adult children stuck living with their parents cope? Don’t they come together and confront issues?
I sure did. Just last spring, I made a decision to begin mending the relationship between my mother and I. It was time to change my attitude first and stop blaming. Sure it hurt; it always hurts. In my experience with friendships, roommates, and living with my parents in my adult years, I have found that unresolved conflicts create thicker and taller walls between people. These walls get harder to tear down as time goes on.
I recently moved to a new city. After drifting away from the church in my small hometown, I’ve decided to start church hopping and so far have checked out two churches. Both churches aren’t perfect, but they have very admirable qualities. One is a place that challenges me to serve, which is something that doesn’t come naturally or comfortable to me. The other is a place to call home. As I go to these churches more often, I’m beginning to realize that if I go looking for a church to satisfy my own reasons and my own needs, I’m probably going to come up empty-handed.
What would happen if churches reached out to try and understand what non-church goers are going through? What if people who don’t attend church came to church and ask the hard questions that made them drift away in the first place? Let’s start a conversation. Let’s open up and try to understand each other.
The more we point fingers at each others--writing articles at each other instead of inviting conversation to speak with each others--the further we’re going to push each other apart. And I don’t believe that’s what Christianity is about.
I’m starting to make a change. I want to find out what makes church attendance so important because honestly, I don’t really know why it is. I’d appreciate it if regular church goers could share some of the thoughts they have towards church. Share what church means to them, and what is exciting about going every Sunday.
Kellie is a chronic daydreamer and aspiring fantasy writer who dwells in that uncomfortable realm of uncertainty. On a whim, she decided to move to start a new life in the “big city”. She seeks to inspire other people through her experiences in life, whether it be overcoming loneliness, battling culture shock and reverse culture shock, learning to live with parents, or breaking out of that crippling shy box and stepping out into the wide unknown.
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