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A Young Person's View of the Church

by Jill Knuttila

I write this article in hopes that the leaders of a church will read it and come to an understanding of what some young people truly look for in a church. As a side note, this is written strictly from my experience (and thoughts from the other regular contributors of this web site), so it may not be all what young people think, but I am pretty sure it covers most things.

1) Programs:
I find that there aren't any programs for young people. I see programs for youth, adults and seniors, but not young adults. Don't get me wrong, there have been programs out there for young people, but I have found them to be more for youth.

How so you ask. I find that these programs that claim to be for young adults are at a lower maturity level. The topics being discussed are more aimed at youth (and sometimes immature ones at that). We already know that going to college and getting a career is a good idea, etc. We already know that it's a tough world out there. What we need is someone to suggest a down-to-earth strategy on how to survive this cruel world by keeping a strong faith.

2) Worship Services:
This is an area where I will get more in depth. If I come across hostile, I apologize. This is an area that has affected me the most, but I also see worship as a big part of the Christian faith; thus more detail is needed.

a) Music: What I find most annoying with many worship services is that the songs are all the same. There is no variety. The same songs are played and sung each Sunday. I suggest we mix newer and older songs from time to time.

Another thing I have found annoying is that many churches tend to try to entertain us with upbeat music and bright lights, etc. To an extent, it's great, but I find that for myself, I want a day of complete relaxation in the Lord.

We are entertained all week with television, video games, etc. We don't need any more entertainment. What we need is a place where we can go and relax. All week we are under pressure at work, or at school. We need a day of complete relaxation. There is a time for entertainment, and there is a time for peace. I believe that a church should find a balance between the two.

b) Sermons: About 98% of the time the sermons are too long and don't relate to young people. Sure, sometimes I use the long-winded sermons to catch up on sleep, but that's not the point here. The sermons are usually based on the idea that having faith in God will make your life much happier. Having faith is a good thing, but life isn't always "happy happy, joy joy" even when you do have faith. You cannot tell a person who is going through a rough period in his or her life that he or she must simply "have more faith in God" in order to get past it; our lives, and God's plans for them, are much more complex than this.

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So, what do young people look for in a sermon? In my most humble opinion, we are looking for a down-to-earth sermon. What I mean is that the sermons need to be more in depth, not just the surface stuff. Here is an example. Say you are giving a sermon about having more faith. Do not condemn us; reassure us that it's okay to have stumbling blocks, and reveal how we can get past these stumbling blocks. Also, get to the point, and make the sermon less than twenty minutes.

Basically, the point I am making is not to just give us the results, but give us the theory behind the results.

3) Leadership and Fellowship:
a) No voice: I have found that young people don't seem to have a voice within the church. We are frowned upon whenever we make a suggestion. I get the impression from leaders that we don't know what the heck we are talking about. Thus, our suggestions are viewed sometimes as annoyances, or are just thrown out altogether.

b) Assumptions: This is an area that ticks me off the most. For one thing, leaders tend to think that they know what it is that young people want. Well, my thought is this: How can they possibly know what we want when they don't ask us? They make assumptions.

I would like to point out that most leaders of the church are in their 40's or 50's. While there is nothing wrong with being older, they should never assume that they can just intuitively understand what young people need. Yes, they were our age at some point in their lives, but they tend to forget that times change. What they would've thought was important when they were our age is much different than young people's views now.

c) Image: Leaders tend to try to look "cool" for us. Not to sound too harsh, but they usually end up looking more like fools. Trying to be cool is perhaps something for youth (even though many youths also get sick of the church pushing what is "cool"). We are not at the stage anymore where image is very important. We are at the stage where we desire intellectual conversation and meaningful experiences. We want to learn more about life. We want depth.

d) Conversing: What I would like to see is more of an effort for leaders to take some time and get to know young people. We have a lot to say, and we have a lot to contribute. When you do take the time to have a conversation with us, please do not try to "come down to our level." Sometimes "our level" might be well above your own! We are not babies, and to "come down to our level" is an insult. There is no need to change your frame of mind, frame of thinking, just so you can understand us. Stay at your level of thinking, and if we don't understand what you are talking about, we will ask. If we are less knowledgeable than you, bring us up to your level by explaining clearly, rather than dumbing down the message.

We want is someone to listen to what we have to say. We are growing and are experiencing many things. We like to discuss what it is we are learning in an intellectual way. We can have our disagreements in an adult way without having a yelling match, or becoming condescending, criticizing, or condemning each other. Disagreeing with us and expressing this in a non-threatening way will probably help send us down another path of thinking.

One last thing we would like is a sympathetic ear. Like I have stated earlier, we are growing and are discovering who we really are, and that can be very difficult at times. At these difficult times, we need support. We need someone to listen to our problems. We do not want you to solve our problems for us, but give us assistance, but only when we ask. You desire autonomy, and so do we.

That concludes this article. I hope that you have gained a better understanding of what many younger people look for in a church. Perhaps this article will help other young people explore what it is they want in a church.

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