Mar 28, 2012

The Rise of the Nones (Pt.2)

Yesterday we talked about the rise of the Nones...people who mark "None" when asked their religious affiliation.  They are the fastest growing group in the United States.  They now outrank every other group in America except for Catholics and Baptist.

This increase in people who have no connection with church or "organized religion" demands a hard look at what we are doing as Christian leaders.  I posed three questions that I believe we must address if things are going to swing things back the other direction.
  1. What does this mean for Children's Ministry?
  2. How can we effectively reach families who are "Nones?"
  3. What changes or shifts need to take place in Children's Ministry as we navigate the culture?

Integrity and accountability must be a top priority.  
Sexual and financial scandals by Christian leaders have contributed to the general public's mistrust of church leaders as a whole.  We must be committed to being leaders marked by integrity, character, honesty, and accountability.  We must walk the talk.  Who we are must become far more important than what we do.  We must lead from the inside out.

We must welcome doubts and questions.
We must create environments where people have the freedom to doubt, grapple, and question.  I am encouraged when children begin to ask questions and grapple with what they believe.  It means they are in the process of owning their faith for themselves.  Instead of suppressing it, we must engage in healthy dialogue and exploration of truth.  We must create an environment where it is okay to belong before you believe.

We must not get hung up on denominational titles.
Protestant denominations are suffering some of the biggest losses.  The days of people coming to a church because of the denominational title are past.  Many of the "nones" may have attended a denominational church when they were young, but have now disconnected.  Are you limiting your reach to them by keeping the name in the church title?

We must raise the bar when it comes to spiritual milestones.
Many of the "nones" had no spiritual milestones to look back to.  Spiritual milestones can provide anchors in a child and family's life.  Milestones such as parent/child dedication, baptism, pre-teen passage, etc. must be a top priority in our ministries.  We must invest time, energy, and resources into pouring into families' lives during these key times.

We must be willing to change what is not working. 
Why are many churches dying?  In many cases, it is because they have grown comfortable and complacent.  They are more concerned with keeping "Sister Organ Player" happy than they are with reaching the "Nones" in their community.  For many, a slow death seems to be easier than taking a risk and making necessary adjustments.

We must be consumed with what consumes Jesus...seeking and saving the lost. 
Jesus passion is to reach the "Nones."  Only 1-2% of churches are growing by reaching people who are lost.  Our focus must shift from how many people ARE COMING to our church to how many ARE NOT COMING.

We must make children and family ministry a top priority.  
"Nones" are significantly younger than the general population, and many young adult nones will be parents of the next generation.  As they become parents, a small window of opportunity will open as they begin to think about taking their children to church.

We must create environments where children love coming.  Environments that are so irresistible that children drag their "none" parents back week after week.  Environments where young parents can get help with their parenting, marriage, finances, etc.  The churches that create these type environments have the potential to make a huge impact.

Closing thoughts...
I am more excited than ever about the opportunity we have to reach people for Christ.  God will raise up people to reach the "Nones."  Though many churches are dying, many are seeing God draw people to Himself in amazing ways.

God is at work.  The big question is...are we willing to line up with what He is doing...even if it means moving into unfamiliar, uncomfortable ground.
    Posted by Dale Hudson


    I think that another thing that turns the "nones" off of church is the way that we interact with one another. Arguing over carpet or pain color, or over which denomination is better, or which translation of the Bible is best. Jesus said that they would know that we were his disciples by our love for one another.

    Recently a member of our church spent 6 weeks in the hospital. During that time over 30 different people from our church visited him. This from a church with an average attendance of around 275. Every single day he had visitors. There were people from our church there when he went into surgery and when he came out. He is not a member of the staff, just one of our members. This show of love for a member of our church had a huge impact on the staff and on this mans family.

    Thanks for this great article. Having grown up in the church I have seen this decline and can see many of the reasons behind it. I am hopeful, however, as I see a shift in the church today away from many of the things that pushed so many people away and a focus on some of the things that will bring many of them back.

    Matt N.

    Thanks for sharing Matt. Sounds like you are part of a loving congregation. May God continue to bless your life and ministry.

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