Tagged: David Kinnaman

Tips for Keeping the Young Adult Generation in Church

In the final section of You Lost Me by David Kinnaman, he brings in a variety of church leaders to offer advice on what it would need to look like to keep the young emerging generation in the church. Consequently, the section is a bit more fragmented than the rest. This post will be similarly fragmented. Here are some of my favourite ideas and a brief commentary of my own.

Three Principles

But first, Kinnaman pinpoints three overarching principles that he saw throughout his research. First and most importantly in my opinion, the emerging generation is driven primarily by relationship. In each section that Kinnaman suggested a turn from one attitude to its solution, at the root of the change was the introduction of a relational dimension. As I try to pound home a lot in this blog, relationship is at the heart of absolutely everything. In the age of shallow technological connections, we crave real, deep human connection. The church’s primary job should be to provide that and let the other things like theology flow out of that.

The Doubtless Church

In Chapter 10 of You Lost Me, David Kinnaman looks at the problem of the church appearing to be doubtless. Many people in the church as well as many outside of it feel as though being a Christian means being absolutely certain of whichever doctrines the church in question holds as essential (and often  there are a lot). This is scary because the simple reality is that being absolutely certain is the unicorn that can never be caught because it doesn’t exist. Some are better at pretending than others but everybody doubts sometimes.

Types of Doubt

Kinnaman addresses four types of doubt. The first is the most obvious: intellectual doubt, usually connected with certain points of theology. Some are fairly classic questions like why does God allow suffering? That’s one has been debated since even before strict monotheism was introduced in the Exilic period. Others have to do with more precise and less personal (at least on the surface) theological questions.

The Exclusive Church

In Chapter 9 of You Lost Me, author David Kinnaman tackles the idea of the church being too exclusive. To be clear, the problem he is addressing is not exclusivist theology: the idea that only those who are explicitly declared Christians are going to Heaven. That probably plays a part, but the real problem is when churches are exclusive in their actions. They may exclude on a variety of points. People are excluded from churches for ethical reasons: being divorced, dating outside of the faith, pre-marital sex… now that I think about most of the ethical exclusions are related to sex and rarely to do with greed or pride or pretty much anything else. People can also be excluded over doctrine, although there’s often an odd dichotomy in evangelical churches where you can usually be baptized despite doctrinal differences but you can’t be a member without strict adherence. Churches might even exclude on matters of practice like church governance models or styles of music. In general, in the modern era the church was quite ok with dividing and excluding over pretty much anything.

The Sexually-Repressive Church

This won’t come as any surprise to pretty much anyone: the church is seen as behind the times on a variety of issues of sexuality. Maybe for the naive it will be more of a surprise to learn that many people have left the church because of it. You may be tempted to dismiss them as just heathens who just want to live in sin and don’t want the truth to get in the way but I would encourage you that even when there are sometimes grains of truth in that thinking, it is also not in the slightest bit helpful.

Some Specific Issues

Throughout this chapter of You Lost Me, author David Kinnaman hits on a few cultural changes which are contributing to the disconnect between the church and young people. I’m not saying that traditional understandings of sex are to be discarded because of these challenges. I’m just saying that the church rarely acknowledges them, let alone does anything to help with them, and then wonders why their young people are almost all having trouble in this area.

The Antiscience Church

I’ll be fairly quick on this chapter of You Lost Me by David Kinnaman for a couple of reasons. First, the dynamics here in Canada and most of the rest of the world is different than in the United States where the research was carried out because of certain literalist tendencies that are more prominent there. Back in high school, I was in a Statistics course and we all had to do an independent study on a topic of our choice. I remember a classmate tried to correlate faith with career paths of other Grade 12 students. In her final presentation, she expressed that she was surprised to find no difference between the religious and non-religious students, having expected the religious students to be slanted towards the arts and the non-religious towards the sciences. To me this demonstrates something interesting: there is still somewhat of a perception that Christianity and science are supposed to be enemies, but the majority of people within the church – at least within Haliburton, Ontario churches as interpreted by 18-year-olds – seemed to have missed that memo and had no problem reconciling the two.

The Shallow Church

Continuing our way through You Lost Me by David Kinnaman, we’ve now come to the chapter talking about the perception/reality that the Western church is shallow. Kinnaman finds this shallowness to have two dimensions, being both an inch deep and a mile wide. Many have a faith which has little substance while also having a faith that “convey[s] a lot of information about God rather than discipling young believers to live wholly and deeply in the reality of God.” People perceive this shallowness and see no advantage to being a Christian when it is essentially the same as being American but with the added bonus of having prayed a particular prayer which allows them to judge others.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

But first a little bit more on the kind of Christianity that is being perceived by at least the emerging generation if not a generation or two before us. Quoting Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Kinnaman speaks of this shallow Christianity as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Unpack that label a little and it is easy to see that this is indeed the version of Christianity which is often being taught in churches… or at the very least, it is the version of Christianity which the emerging generation thinks is being taught (I’ll leave the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t intentionally teaching this form of Christianity; they may simply be failing to communicate).

The Overprotective Church

The Western church in general has a problem. Well, it has lots of problems, but to me, there is a particular one at the top of the list: we’re afraid of any risk. You may have heard the phrase “helicopter parents” to describe those who hover over everything their children do to make sure they’re on the right track and not going to get hurt. In general, a lot of other things about our society have similarly taken the helicopter approach by trying to shelter ourselves as much as possible in the name of safety.

To put it another way, we’re addicted to comfort. Something that really annoys me about myself as well as a lot of the church in general is that we talk about the importance of doing the things necessary to change the world, but we often don’t actually do it. The reason why is pretty clear: we decide it is too risky. We theoretically value the change that could be made but in practice we value our comforts even more.

You Lost Me: A Dialogue

A few days ago, I came across a new book by David Kinnaman called You Lost Me. The topic is the reason why young people leave the church. Along with the book there is some material on the website including videos of some young people honestly explaining how they were trying to care about the church but were eventually discouraged and gave up. I was going to write up some other commentary on the idea, but after posting the link to my Google+, a good friend of mine did most of the work for me. Rather than write up a distinct commentary, I’ll just copy over our conversation. Since I didn’t explicitly ask her if I could post her name, I’ll leave her anonymous, although if you went over to my G+ and found the post, it is public so you could see that way if you really wanted to know. The sections contained in a blockquote are hers, and the sections in normal paragraph text are mine.