By Jan Edmiston, DMin ’01
Almost every church I’ve ever known has wanted to Attract Young Families. The reasoning behind this includes the following:
There are a few things wrong with this reasoning, including the fact that “attracting” people in general feels manipulative – as if people are “targets” to be used for our own purposes. Yuck.
Let’s be honest about the “why?” Are we saying that we want these rare and valuable Young Families for what they can give to us?
What if – instead – the “why” of this demographic quest was about feeding souls and sharing authentic community? I always hoped – as a young mom – that church would provide adults that could help me nurture my children. I always wanted to know that – if my kids couldn’t come to me or HH with a problem – they would have other trustworthy adults to whom they could go (and they did.)
Young families are great. Old families are great. Families made up of child-free couples are great. Families of single people are great. Imagine if every church simply wanted A Pastor Who Could Bring In Broken People. Now that’s a church.
Also, the days are gone when Young Families were present in worship every Sunday. The statistics are in about how the definition of “regular worship” has changed since the 1950s. (“Regular” used to mean weekly. Now it means once or twice a month.)
Instead of seeking a Pastor who can bring in those vaunted Young Families, we need to call a Pastor who knows how to shift congregational culture. The culture in which we live and move and have our being has changed, but we are killing ourselves trying to maintain a dated congregational culture.
News flash: Most pastors will fail at “Bringing in Young Families.” Families of every kind are drawn to communities that are in touch with real life. For example, check out Carey Nieuwhof’s recent post about why even committed Christians do not worship as regularly as they did in previous decades. At least two of his “10 Reasons” specifically impact cultural changes connected to Young Families.
So how can we be the kind of congregation that welcomes Young Families for more than their energy and wallets? We can:
It’s also okay not to have Young Families in our congregations depending on the context. Some neighborhoods have very few young ones living nearby. But there are still people who crave some Good News.
I want a Pastor who can minister to whoever lives in the neighborhood in the thick of these cruel and beautiful times.
Jan Edmiston is the associate executive presbytery for ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago, where she has served since 2011. Prior to that she served congregations in northern Virginia and New York. She completed her MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and her DMin in Christian Spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary in 2001. She has graciously agreed to let us repost some of her blog entries (including ones from guest bloggers) from A Church for Starving Artists.