“Why can’t they be like we were…" Pastorpedia – Reaching the Younger Generation, September 2017

Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about how your church can focus on the younger generation.
“Why can’t they be like we were…
…perfect in every way?”
And we always went to church every Sunday.
But the younger generation does not do that, and some of them give it little thought.
But if the churches that are losing them or never touching them do not give them much thought, we are in big trouble. If not now, soon, that trouble will come.
We certainly do not have all the answers, but we hope to make us all think about this and do better. And get younger.
And, for first steps, face the need with realism, starting with church leaders.
Not perfect, but hoping to get younger,
Knute for Jim and Jeff
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Watch the Video

Knute Larson will be speaking during Pastorpedia Live on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, in Winona Lake, Indiana. He’ll be discussing how a pastor can lead his church through change. Find out more…

How do you know when you need to focus on the younger generation?

Jeff Bogue

  • Focusing on the younger generation in our church is just always needed! The minute you sit still, you’re growing old. So, getting younger and focusing on the younger generation is a consistent and purposeful focus of the church.
  • We talk a lot about how the church works like a conveyor belt—i.e., you tend to get onto that belt in your 20’s and you ride it until you pass away. Because everyone is gradually moving down the belt in age, you always have to feed the front end of the belt to be a healthy church.

Jim Brown

  • Right now!
  • When there are few babies in your nursery.
  • Before your church is filled with only senior saints.
  • The direction of your church and the vision must always be reaching the next generation.
  • When your stage people up front do not represent the young.
  • Before you have to ask this question: “Where are all the young families?”
  • Yesterday, because you will eventually die as elderly people and have to close the doors.
  • When you no longer connect with the younger generation and they see your ministry as irrelevant.

Knute Larson

  • When the video camera shows more gray heads than blonde or brown…
  • When all the staff and board members and strong influencers are over 50 years old…
  • When no one is appealing for “younger music…”
  • When the cradles are not used much, or the “crawlers” rooms stay perfectly clean, or one teacher is all the kindergarten department needs…
  • When the organist dominates the worship service…
  • When no one is asking why the church is not doing more for the community people…

Is the answer to always go rock ‘n roll?

Jeff Bogue

  • Actually the answer is not always to go rock ‘n roll. In fact, that can be a huge mistake. The answers are authenticity and warmth.
  • Young people look for authenticity. This is a huge marker for them. So, if your personality is rock ‘n roll, then rock ‘n roll works for you. If your personality is country music… etc.
  • Whatever is authentically you and whatever is authentically the community you’re in, is who you should be stylistically for reaching them.
  • A huge element that is becoming stronger and stronger is the idea of warmth. Barna (Research) Group said this: “Warmth is the new cool,” so being warm and engaging is actually the best way to engage young people.

Jim Brown

  • No, but is imperative we understand them so we can relate to younger generations.
  • We should be willing to offer programming that reaches them.
  • Look for ways to connect and show them and their parents that you long to reach them and love them.
  • Fill your platform with the very people you long to reach.
  • In order to reach any age group, change must be something we embrace as a value in our churches.
  • Make sure to listen to the voice of the “young” in your planning meetings. Give them a platform to speak for themselves.
  • We must be willing to set aside our preferences in order to reach all ages.

Knute Larson

  • No. It is much more about attitudes of the leaders than about specific changes first. But normally some change in music habits, at least incremental change, is a part of the getting younger.
  • And more, the answers to be more authentic and sincere are opposed to glitzy and full of clichés. I urge churches to check that warmth, realistic talk (not “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before…”), true-to-life sermon applications are part of talks that are about “then” and “now,” not just the former. See the chapters in the book, Growing Young, listed below.
  • Since we are talking about music, many strong and growing churches include at least some worship songs familiar to veterans, or a more traditional service option. It does not have to be either/or. This is especially true when it comes to very strong worship hymns or some of the other hymns and older songs that have had adaptations that give them a modern setting.
    Many churches of course target only the younger people.

What is the role of the pastor to reach the younger generation?

Jeff Bogue

  • Celebrate the young, empower them, and give credibility to their ideas and their value within the congregation. Give them ownership; teach, lead, and instruct them.
  • You will be surprised how open young people are to hearing you when you are authentic and warm.

Jim Brown

  • Be their greatest advocate.
  • Model your love and appreciation for them by having them in your home.
  • Remind your church people that they were young once.
  • I often say this: “How much would you give to reach your own grandchild who was far from God?”
  • Paint a picture of a thriving church filled with all the ages, and how important it is to have babies and new birth!
  • Surround yourself with younger people so you can stay in touch with the generations younger than you.
  • Pray and fast for your people to long to reach the younger generation.
  • Study the wants, needs, and culture of the younger generation.
  • Lead the way and be willing to take hits for your vision.
  • Keep getting younger by adding younger staff.
  • Repent of any area where you or your church has failed to change in order to reach all ages!

Knute Larson

  • To lead and manage the discussions and decisions. We cannot just stand by and allow people to block the doors of the church by attitudes that exclude the younger.
  • To stay young, as much as possible—with good attitudes, staying in shape, caring about what is offered in terms of the mission of the church (social issues, cultural problems addressed, meaningful music, coffee and more).
  • To be sure there is a point person on staff and a very strong ministry manager as a volunteer that addresses the needs and leads the outreach and pastors the people who are in their teens and 20’s and 30’s. Too many churches just hope this happens.
  • To lead in prayer privately and publically that the church will get younger.
  • To read, Growing Young: 6 essential strategies to help young people discover and love your church! (Baker Books, and the winner of “Outreach” magazine’s church division book of the year, for 2016).
    This was a study of hundreds of churches that are getting young, and presents the common denominators. They are possible for all of us:
  • Sharing power with the right people at the right time—about shared leadership and including the young.
  • Empathizing with young people.
  • Taking the message of Jesus seriously.
  • Stoking a warm community feeling at the church—“Warm is the new cool.”
  • Prioritizing young people and young families in all the church programs.
  • Being the best neighbors—a challenge about community relationships.
  • Crafting a plan for change and getting younger.

I listed the chapters or the common denominators to show that they are not about electric guitars or rips in the knees of the jeans! We can all do these.

Vol. 4, Issue 5
September 2017

Produced by CE National

Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.

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