The church is dying.
This is the topic of all kinds of blogs, facebook posts, tweets whatever that I see at least once a week. How can we be relevant? How can we change our image and be hip again? How much free food do we need to offer to get warm bodies in these cold pews? Is our stage big enough for a rock band?
Serious questions for serious times….
So what’s the real problem? What is the root of the root?
You may be surprised to know, that I know quite a few people who joined the church as young adults.
Did they join for the rock band? The free food?
Do those things really keep people? Attract, yes, but keep?
After the band is done, after the delicious pot luck from the UMW, what keeps them?
I joined the UMC as a young adult, and it’s true I was reeled in by the free dinner and fellowship, but I stayed because the truth of our gospel is compelling.
I found the UMC through a campus ministry. A place where I came and found broken authentic folks. People who were all trying to get it together, same as all of us. The problem was the churches I’d attended in the past were full of ‘perfect people’.
Lord knows I can’t hang out with the perfect people, it’s bad for my ego.
I think that if anyone took a good look at campus ministries, ya know those places that our conferences keep cutting money towards, they would see what I see.
During the 6 years I spent at the Winthrop Wesley Foundation we turned out 3 candidates for ordained ministry, 2 missionaries, 5 youth group leaders, and numerous camp workers, church nursery workers, and christian educators. Not to mention all the super amazing non-church related vocations like social workers, educators, doctor’s office employees. These campus ministries are churning out the future leaders of this church. Our wesley foundation was at a relatively small college with around 6,000 grad and undergrads, and I can’t imagine what these numbers would look like at places like USC Wesley Foundation or FSU Wesley Foundation.
I am proud and excited to continue to work with campus ministries. To witness the impact of this ministry on the lives of the students and young adults here in L’viv. From this small ministry we sprouted a church that recently celebrated it’s third birthday. From this ministry there are amazing stories of how God has changed lives, and we’ve seen others realize a call to ministry.
There is life on these campuses, and yes they might like their music a bit louder, but some of us still love the old hymns. We cannot settle, however, for churches that don’t put their money where their mouth is.
Churches that preach justice and mercy, but cut their missions budgets.
Churches that preach only the good things and fail to challenge their members.
Churches that are full of ‘perfect people.’
South Carolina cut 100% of program funding to all of their campus ministries two or three years ago. We never once took up an offering at our services (we relied heavily on the faithful giving of others), and still we were present in our community. We still made time for service. We offered free lunches, mission opportunities, and shelter when necessary. We challenged and annoyed one another, rejoiced and cried with one another, and we were the community that I think that God calls each of us to enter into. We were certainly not perfect, and that was the best part.
That is what makes campus ministry great.
That is what makes the work that I am so blessed to be a part of great.
The future of our church, is happening now. It’s happening in under steeples, in apartments, and even in bars (theology on tap anyone?). Stop looking at that 18 year old and telling them that they are the future of the church.
I mean it. Don’t say that to anyone over the age of 10 ever again.
They aren’t the future of the church, they are the church. We are all the church, and young people are passionate about God. They are finding nourishment in their campus ministries, and the question you should be asking is, what kind of church is waiting for them after they graduate?