5 CULTURE SHIFTS THAT AFFECT THE CHURCH

Carol Howard Merritt suggests that churches aren’t the most culturally savvy places:

I know that some congregations are still fighting about whether they should be singing “contemporary” songs, which were written in the 1980s. Or they’re wrestling over the use of PowerPoint, which can be tiresome for people who have endured two decades of PP board meetings… But there are cultural shifts that congregations and church leaders need to track and respond to sensibly. Here are five of them.

1) Finances.

Younger generations are not faring well in this economy. They didn’t do so well when the rest of the country was booming either. Why? Younger generations face high student loan debt, high housing costs and stagnant wages (if they’re even able to get a job). The shame they bear matches our debt load, and they feel like they need to get their life together before they go to church.

2) Work hours.

People who go to mainline churches are wealthier. Or wealthier people go to mainline churches. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. We don’t know what comes first. But young workers know one thing: many people in their 20s and 30s work retail or in the service industry. The blue laws faded long ago, and you don’t get Sunday mornings off unless you’re management.

3) Families.

People marry and have children later in life. Some people say that adults in their 20s and 30s are just extending adolescence, having fun in their odyssey years, or they’re too commitment-phobic to settle down. Yet, we’re a society that expects financial stability before a couple gets married, and many younger adults can’t manage financial stability.

4) The Internet.

Church leaders have a lot on their plate. Many don’t think they have any time for Facebook or Twitter. They may still be working with the misconception that the only things people are blogging about are what sort of breakfast they had on Tuesday (although if you’re reading this, you probably realize that blogs are good for more than personal over-sharing). But there’s no way to ignore it any longer. Even if a church leader shies away from the web, people may be talking about you on Google Map reviews or Yelp.

5) Politics.

A new generation is exhausted from the culture wars. Many people growing up in the last few decades had a difficult time keeping “Christian” and “Republican” in two separate boxes. Emerging generations look at poverty, the environment and war as complex issues, and many younger evangelicals are less likely to vote on pro-life credentials alone. Many young Christians who grew up evangelical are trying out mainline congregations .

Read more here: Duke Divinity Call & Response Blog

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