Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reaching the Under 40s: MIssion Impossible?

Ian Paul at Psephizo offers a brilliant report on a conference with a focus on reaching the "Under 40s"/"Millennials"/Generation Y and Generation Z. Brilliant because it is inspiring, challenging, empowering and enabling.

Here Down Under the challenge of reaching the Under 40s is as urgent and as challenging as it is Up Yonder.

But it is not, under God, Mission Impossible ...

27 comments:

Father Ron said...

While the Church insists on the outdated treatment of human needs, by applying mediaeval doctrinal certitudes - without engaging the intelligence of our young people - it may find the task of mission progressively more difficult.
While. While the God of Love is hidden behind a curtain of shibboleths, the attractiveness of Jesus' call to perfection is hidden from view.

Shawn Herles said...

Learn from what other churches may be doing right. At the Sunday evening service at Grace Vineyard, one of those Evangelical churches with medieval doctrinal certitudes, under 40's are the majority at a service that that can reach up to 200 or more in attendance, and they make up up to a third or a half of all other services.

Why? I suspect several reasons. One is doctrinal and moral certitude. In an increasingly nihilistic society which believes in nothing and has no moral clarity, youth are looking for a real alternative. Churches which mimic the hyper-rational skepticism and moral confusion of contemporary society are not attractive to them.

They also want churches with passion, energy, and a clear sense of mission. They want a church that they believe can make a difference in the world. They also want to be taken seriously, to be involved in the church at all levels, and not just the objects of token youth programs.

There are likely many other reasons, but it would not hurt Anglican ministers concerned about this issue to seek out churches, both within and outside of ACANZP, with high levels of youth and young adult participation, and find out what they are doing right.

Andrei said...

I am the exact opposite of Fr Ron

I don't think the Church has to "reach out" to the younger generation, rather I think it has to be there for the younger generation

Trying to adapt it to conform to the fads and fashions of today comes across as fake and ephemeral whereas the Church is eternal - selling it like life insurance or toothpaste makes it just another product which it isn't of course

In a changing and uncertain world the Church can be an island of peace and a sanctuary from the white noise of modern life

In the cities the Church should be open 24/7 with regular services open not for tourists but for those seeking calmness and solace in a difficult and troubled world

A woman once told me how she hadn't been to church for years but when her mother died she went into a church to light a candle while the choir was practicing and how the peace from above came over her and this is how she came home

MichaelA said...

Here in the greater Sydney region we see plenty of effective outreach to under-40s.

I wouldn't say that we are satisfied with the results of our outreach, by any means, but at least we are seeing steady if small growth. And young people relate to it as much as the old.

In terms of why, I think there has to be a recognition that the gospel itself is attractive, no less to young people than old. If your ministers are relatively young, and are enthusiastic about teaching and living the gospel, that tends to lift the whole congregation, of all ages.

Glen Young said...


"....-without engaging the intelligence of our young people";Ron.

Perhaps the best exponent of engaging the intelligence of our young people; would have to be Cliff Knechtle with his "Give me an answer" series.And what is the foundation of his answers? DOCTRINAL CERTITUDES that go much further back than the mediaeval times. I am yet to see him outwitted by any young intellectual. There is a major difference between engaging their intelligence and pandering to the modern neo-darwinistic certitudes promoted by universities.

hogsters said...

re Ron: "the attractiveness of Jesus' call to perfection is hidden from view".

You mean Jesus calls us to live in a certain way? Gosh I thought anything goes now we are freed from those outdated mediaeval doctrinal certitudes.



Glen Young said...


May I leave you with the thoughts of a young man who has faced and is facing his his own mortality (in an earthly sense, but not in Christ) and is encouraging other young men to face up to what it means to be a man;even just within the limits of the God given Natural Order. It can be found on:
WWW.thetoughclub.

Brian Kelly said...

Medieval doctrinal certitutes focused primarily on three areas:

1. The belief in Purgatory and the efficacy of indulgences in remitting temporal punishment;
2. Marian doctrine, especially belief in Mary's Immaculate Conception, sinless life and bodily Assumption into heaven;
3. Transubstantiation, the belief that the elements of the Lord's Supper or Eucharist literally become the historical, physical body and blood of Jesus.

You will find none of these beliefs in the apostolic and early patristic church. But I do know people who subscribe to them today. If people wish to use terms from Dogmengeschichte, let's be accurate, please.

Andrei said...

Hebrews 13

8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

Shawn Herles said...

Yes, as Brian points out both Marian devotion and transubstantiation were Medieval doctrinal certitudes, which Anglo-Catholic churches adhere to, and both of which have been vigorously defended on ADU by our resident Anglo-Catholic. So it seems a very odd criticism to make of other Christians.

Anonymous said...

Actually Transubstantiation was designed to exclude a physical, material or local presence of Christ in the species..most people now don't understand what substance means philosophically.Let's be fair to Thomas Aquinas.The Immaculate Conception was debated in the late Middle Ages.The Franciscans took one view,the Dominicans another.Itwasnt defined for RCs until 1854..likewise the Assumption...not defined until 1950. Let's take medieval history seriously.
But surely this thread has swiftly moved away from topic..and a very important one...into inter church in fighting.
Perhaps this is why some under 40s fight shy of religious commitment.Most of them see religion as promoting confict alas.
Perry Butler

Brian Kelly said...

"Actually Transubstantiation was designed to exclude a physical, material or local presence of Christ in the species..most people now don't understand what substance means philosophically."

Really? Are you sure about that? I actually had a Catholic education and I was told by my bona fide Catholic teachers that in transubstantiation the elements *become the body and blood of Christ, replacing the *substantia of bread and wine while the *accidents (taste, appearance, shape etc) of bread and wine remain; the exact opposite of what you appear to believe. As for the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, these were believed and taught long, long before 1854 or 1950. Think of Duns Scotus. They didn't become doctrines recently, even if their formal definition is recent.

Shawn Herles said...

"Perhaps this is why some under 40s fight shy of religious commitment.Most of them see religion as promoting confict alas."

Because by it's very nature it does promote conflict. The Christian faith promotes conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil. It promotes conflict with other religions by it's exclusive truth and salvation claims. It promotes conflict with false teaching, false idols, and idolatry in all it's forms. It can promote conflict with governments and within families. And, when taken seriously, it promotes conflict with modernity. As Jesus said, "I came not to bring peace, but a sword."

Militia est vita hominis super terram.

Father Ron said...

"Yes, as Brian points out both Marian devotion and transubstantiation were Medieval doctrinal certitudes, which Anglo-Catholic churches adhere to, and both of which have been vigorously defended on ADU by our resident Anglo-Catholic. So it seems a very odd criticism to make of other Christians."

- Shawn Herles -

I might have known that someone would have completely misinterpreted my comment about 'medieval doctrinal certitudes'. In the context in which I have focused my comments on this site, anyone following the gist would have understood the thrust of my argument - that a medieval understanding of 'moral certitudes' regarding human sexuality still occupies the minds of those who see homosexuality as the work of the devil.

Mind you, when a mind is set in a particular direction - especially on 'moral grounds' - there is little one can do to encourage them to do a bit of reading to offset their presuppositions (dare one say, prejudice?)

Regarding the Roman Catholic understanding of "Indulgences" : to remit time spent in 'purgatory', I once played the part of Luther's Confessor in the brilliant play by John Osborne and am completely aware of the problem that poses - even today.

On the matter of 'Transubstantiation'; I am happy with the words: 'Con-substantiation', which contains the possibility of the co-existence of the consecrated Bread and Wine and the Body and Blood of Christ. However, even that is a 'Mystery' beyond our finite human comprehension.

Glen Young said...


Ron,

Are you suggesting that GOD is into "medieval doctrinal certitudes;or
(1) God did not inspire Paul's words in Romans chapter 1;or
(2) God is not immutable as He has changed His mind about what is sin;or
(3) God means what His Holy Writ says,and it is relevant as His authorative
truth,as medieval moral certitudes and as 21st cent. moral certitudes.

Shawn Herles said...

"that a medieval understanding of 'moral certitudes' regarding human sexuality still occupies the minds of those who see homosexuality as the work of the devil."

It's not a "medieval understanding of 'moral certitudes' regarding human sexuality" that is anyone's concern. Our concern is with the Biblical understanding of human sexuality. The Middle Ages has nothing to do with it.

" there is little one can do to encourage them to do a bit of reading to offset their presuppositions (dare one say, prejudice?)"

I am only interested in what God says about the issue in Scripture. Modern authors are irrelevant to me.

And starting from a modernist presupposition in which the pre-modern world, including the Middle Ages, is dark and bad and something we must get away from could reasonably be called a form of prejudice.

Father Ron said...

"Our concern is with the Bilbical understanding of human sexuality".

That, it must by now be obvious, is the 'limit' of YOUR concern; but not mine!

My immediate concern as a licensed priest and pastor in our Church is to deal with the existential needs of real people in the real world of today. That's MY final word in our conversation on this matter.

Shawn Herles said...

"Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect." - Romans 12:2

Shawn Herles said...

"My immediate concern as a licensed priest and pastor in our Church is to deal with the existential needs of real people in the real world of today."

A Christian minister's primary duty is to preach the Word of God, administer the sacraments, and lead people to salvation. Otherwise we might as well just stop teaching candidates for ordination any Scripture or theology, and just train them up as secular counselors.

Peter Carrell said...

I suggest, Shawn and Ron, in respect of the topic du jour here, Under 40s, that what is valued by the Under 40s is both true truth clearly taught and expert priestly pastoral care which connects with the existential plight of a generation who are making their way into the 21st century full of both hope and anxiety about the future of humanity.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

The "21st century" does not exist in any real way. It's just an arbitrary way of counting the number of times the earth has gone around the sun since we adopted that particular calendar. And modernity is merely an abstract ideological construct built on sand. While all of us, regardless of our age, have to deal with the degenerate and corrupting nature of modernity, that is a call for radical defiance and spiritual warfare, not acceptance or weakness in the face of it's challenges.

As Scripture teaches us, there is nothing new under the sun, and we preach Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Brian Kelly said...

In the astronomical sense, a 'century' is meaningless (astronomy thinks in millions and billions of solar circuits), but on the human scale a century (wherever we choose to begin it) denotes roughly the span of three generations - grandparent / parent / adult child - a familial relationship which has always been fundamental to human culture, and I can't see this really changing, given the natural limits of human life. However, the fragmentation of relationships through widespread divorce and the abandonment of marriage is probably the gravest danger of our times.
The laws of science do not change; what changes is human knowledge (or what we fancy we know) and the way we think about ourselves and the world; in other words, culture. There is no evidence that people today are better than the medievals with their 'certitudes'; but the loss of religious faith among younger adults has induced among some an ersatz obsession with fantasy, and among others a loss of purpose and the capacity to make sense of their lives as well as their problems and setbacks. To be the first generation that will likely be poorer than their (materialist) parents is a hard thing for those who have made possessions their idols.

Glen Young said...


If the Church wishes to be relevant to the under forties,it needs to draw a line in the sand and show that their is a vibrant difference between Her and the world.Her proclamation should boldly say, that without an Eternal Creating GOD there can be no form and order to the universe or purpose and plan to life.

Shawn Herles said...

Short but useful. It's a summary by Ed Stetzer of his book 'Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and Churches that Reach Them'

How to Effectively Reach and Retain Millennials

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/september/how-to-effectively-reach-and-retain-millennials.html

Jean said...

I feel mortally wounded generation X was left out of the article : )

I agree most with the last two sentences, the willingness to share faith undergirded by prayer, are if you like the two essentials needed before reaching out to people in our communities. Alongside the recognition a 'church service' is a foreign experience to many.

I have never taken an age focused approach to faith, despite only ever having one friend who was my own age attending the churches I have since I was 26. But I support all efforts of genuine evangelising - after all in NZ you could probably say (if you include babyboomers many of whom stopped attending church) the majority of people under 60 have little to do with church 'the harvest is plentiful'!

Shawn Herles said...

"I feel mortally wounded generation X was left out of the article"

I'm supposedly of that generation myself. But the truth is all this Gen X, Y, Millennial thing is just a marketing scam. The current generation is not greatly different to mine, or the generation before that, and so on, and they are not really dealing with anything previous generations did not deal with. The most I would say is that the last couple of generations have been overly coddled, and the secular education system has filled their heads with a lot of ideological nonsense, and as a result they have an over-inflated sense of entitlement. NZ, and much of the West, made a serious mistake when we dropped compulsory national service.

Father Ron said...

" NZ, and much of the West, made a serious mistake when we dropped compulsory national service. - Shawn Herles -

October 15, 2016 at 7:24 AM

As a two-year conscript in the National Service of the U.K., I can, indeed, speak of the disciplinary value of my experience.

Tell me, Shawn, did you have that benefit yourself?