I’m presently attending the Sunday School Publishing Board’s convention sponsored by the National Baptist Convention. This is the primarily African-American organization that supports the production of educational materials for predominately African American Baptist churches in America. This morning, I attended a workshop titled, Equipping and Engaging a New Generation. This is a three-day course, focusing on the question of why millennials aren’t attending church. Although a lot of time is being spent surveying the landscape of millennials in general, the course explores why African American millennials have chosen to stay away from the church.
This morning, we explored a variety of topics that sketched a landscape of what the issues are sociologically, generationally and culturally that keep millennials away from church. I chose to attend this course because I have an interest in how the church can make itself relevant to this group. I’m a member of a more traditional, predominately African-American congregation, and I’ve noticed for the entire thirty-three years that I’ve been there that the congregant profile has progressively become older. The average age now is probably low to high fifties. Many of the millennials, who were brought up in this church, are no longer attending regularly or have migrated to less traditional congregations.
It’s always been interesting to me, when organizational dynamics are considered, that the people who are usually in charge tend to not pay attention to the natural evolution that occurs over time. One day the leadership looks around and realizes that there are no plans in place to account for generational shifts. I can recall a few years back talking to my adult Sunday school class about the old folks (that generation before the Baby Boomers). I’m a Baby Boomer. I posed the question: What happened to the old folks? One of the students in the class chimed in with: We are now the old folks!
If you’re familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy, you know that it’s a theory that posits the concept of motivation being influenced by what we most need at a point in time. For example, if a person needs food and water, which is a basic for existence, she will devote efforts to satisfy that need immediately. Once food and water are in place at a substantive level, shelter may be next in line. As a person’s lot improves, over time for example, he may achieve a level of existence where pursuit of more ethereal elements of life have more value.
I’m of the opinion that although there are distinct generational differences between people, all generations have a desire to know why am I here, how do I connect with all that’s around me, is there a creator and how do I connect with that Being? The human model is driven by the same external stimuli, since the time of cave dwellers: love, lust, material gain, satisfaction with how each of us align with all we see around us. Technology may change, but we don’t. The generation that came before is usually out of touch with the methodologies of communication, networking, and getting things done, for example, than achieving end results. The generational gap may be shortened if more focus is on end results versus “we’ve been doing it this way for this long.” Messages don’t have to change when methodologies are adjusted.
I’m old and blessed…. hope you will be too.