People today are more open than ever to hear God’s Story because of the emptiness and brokenness of postmodern life. The Gospel story intersects with this generation’s experience in a number of ways [including that] they feel unwanted and unneeded, [and] God’s story oﬀers them a place of belonging, a place for involvement, and a place where their lives can be used in service of a purpose that is larger than themselves.Churches that fail to help young people feel like they belong will eventually die. Referring to how important it is for churches to make young people feel like they belong, Ed Stetzer says that some churches are “dead for lack of friends.”
Long and Stetzer join a growing number of voices calling for the church to throw open its doors and welcome nonbelievers to participate in various activities in the church. Churches will not always be able to say yes to postmodern people’s desire to take part in religious ceremonies, but the more often churches can allow it, the more positively postmodern people will respond.Church leaders might legitimately ask how allowing the next generation to take part in certain religious ceremonies is connected to helping postmodernists feel like they belong and thereby discover genuine faith in Christ. Dr. Wayne Oppel, who holds a doctorate in strategic leadership and has over thirty years of experience in leadership development, conducts workshops around the nation to help Christian leaders learn how to reach the next generation. He teaches workshop attendees:
The new theological thrust will be a return to the tradition of faith, especially the faith of classical Christianity expressed by the fathers of the church, the ancient ecumenical creeds and the practices of worship and spirituality found in the great traditions of the faith community.He goes on to elaborate that churches that want to reach the next generation will have to give “greater attention to the ritual as symbol, more attention to [religious] ceremony … and more frequent celebration of the Eucharist.”
People with a postmodern worldview are looking for experiences and for a sense of belonging. Religious ceremonies can provide both of those. As church leaders spend time with young people helping them prepare for these ceremonies, they also build relationships. Real relationships combined with the experience of partaking in the ancient ceremonies of the church create powerful connections in the minds and hearts of the next generation. During those times they are more open to the Gospel than ever. Church leaders must seize those opportunities and share the Gospel with the next generation and watch how God calls those young adults to Himself.
The above article is adapted from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks.