Seek Ways to Make Our Faith Communities Relevant to a Postmodern World
In the early 2000s there was much talk about the emergent church. The idea was to address shrinking church attendance by taking steps to be more pertinent to a younger audience, many who dismissed the religious practices of prior generations. These people weren’t turning their backs on Jesus, however, just the institutional church. Therefore, churches need an emergent mindset.
Though this need is even more pronounced now than ever, we don’t hear much about the emergent church movement anymore. But this wasn’t a fad that died out. It’s more likely that the people doing this aren’t talking or writing about it. My post, “What Happened to the Emergent Church?” addresses this.
Even so, for churches to remain pertinent to changing demographics, they need to embrace an emergent mindset. First, we need some background. In my post I wrote:
“The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.”
What does this emergent mindset mean for today’s churches?
Avoid the Status Quo
If churches do the same things they’ve always done, they’ll get the same results. This means that for churches that want to reverse their decline in attendance will need to reverse their practices.
This doesn’t mean they must change, or even should change, what they believe and teach—providing that it’s biblical. Instead, they need to reevaluate everything else they do that surrounds it.
Many churches today struggle with declining attendance and an aging congregation. For most of them, the only time they grow is when another declining church closes and those members seek another place to attend.
To move away from status-quo church practices means to embrace change. Most people, however, don’t like change. This is especially true with long-time church members who have fixed expectations.
They may oppose needed changes by threatening to withhold donations. They may even follow through.
In short, they use money to selfishly manipulate the church into doing what they want her to do.
To avoid this unproductive response as much as possible requires teaching about the need to adapt to meet changing societal expectations. Becoming what future generations need and will be drawn to requires an emergent mindset. This can help churches grow numerically and not shrink.
Launch New Initiatives
After about ten years of existence, churches move toward becoming institutions. As they do so, self-preservation becomes key and most other activities become secondary.
If you think your church is the exception to this truth, look at your numeric growth. If it’s stagnant, you are an institution. If you’re seeing healthy, Jesus-focused growth, you may have overcome this generalization. It’s also likely that you have an emergent mindset.
For everyone else, know that doing what’s required to attract the next generation is most difficult from inside an institution. Instead of attempting to do this from within, an alternative is to launch a new initiative that comes from your established church but is not a part of it.
Just make sure that this initiative your launching is truly something fresh and not merely repackaging what already isn’t working.
Embrace the Emergent Mindset
Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Doing so will require you to stop doing what you’re currently doing, embrace change, and start a fresh way for people to experience God.
It won’t be easy, but it is essential.