Arriving at ineffective


Not sure this is much better...In yesterday’s post, I posted a quote from the book “Simple Church” that was fairly condemning towards churches that were unwilling to change. When I first read the quote I completely agreed with the authors’ sentiment. “So many churches are becoming irrelevant and it doesn’t seem as if they care. Why don’t they wake up and take a look around them,” I thought to myself and now have written on my blog.

But today, I’m wondering if perhaps I need to evaluate the word “ineffective.” When churches take a look around them, they likely see an older, content, loyal group of members who have been a part of their congregation longer than I have been alive. The church is anything but ineffective to those individuals. The church is hardly irrelevant to them.

This concept of ineffective is a pretty selfish concept really. Simply because a church doesn’t meet my needs or isn’t reaching out to me in cool and meaningful ways doesn’t mean that they’d rather die than change – it just means that my needs and my desires aren’t their priority.

And that’s OK.

But, it also means that those congregations unwilling to meet the needs of a younger, changing demographic will one day die. And, as my good buddy Brad said, that’s OK too. (By the way Brad, when are YOU going to start a blog?)

So, my question today is: Should congregations that minister to a primarily older demographic continue serving them with a healthy understanding that their future is uncertain at best OR should aging congregations attempt to engage younger individuals in hopes of sustaining their local gathering of Christ-followers?


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  1. April 23, 2008 at 7:36 am — Reply

    Hey Todd. I work for a church that used to be primarily an “older, traditional” group of people. My boss, the lead pastor, at the age of 30 or so, had a burden for the generation coming after him. We made the change (and we’re still working toward) to Simple Church. A lot of the older people left amicably, saying they could go to a church right around the corner that would meet their needs. There are literally hundreds of churches that do church in a way that is effective to them. They also realized that there are hardly ANY churches reaching out to the younger generations. Of course there were those who left upset, but we had to let them go. Because in our vision it was worth it to watch one saved person walk out the door so 10 unsaved people could come in.
    So I guess I think it depends on the pastor and the heart of the people. If they get it, they get it.

  2. April 23, 2008 at 7:44 am — Reply

    Emily, thanks for the comment. That’s pretty brave of your pastor. How have things gone since the change?

  3. April 23, 2008 at 9:10 am — Reply

    Great question, Todd. All I can think of are more questions. Like, should the bottom line motivation be to sustain a local gathering at all costs? Should those who have attended an unchanging church for decades be challenged to accept change? Should those in younger generations who are seeking something relevant to them be challenged to find meaning in tradition?

    Almost without exception, I hear church people say that there is value in a community comprised of multiple generations. However, the the benefit of this kind of community does not automatically happen. If those in the older generation feel threatened and marginalized, and un-heard, they will not reach out to the younger generations. If the younger generations are arrogant and over-busy and consumeristic, they won’t take a second to really hear those who are older.

    It takes work, sacrifice, and submission to be a true faith community regardless of the age of the people involved or the songs they sing.

    yep. Didn’t answer any questions. 🙂

  4. Andrea Anglin
    April 23, 2008 at 12:16 pm — Reply

    I think this thought is more about spiritual maturity than natural maturity.

    My thoughts are that ALL churches should have as part of their mission to reach out to the unchurched – young, older, whatever. Our churches should strive to connect with people who don’t like church.

    We should make messages relevant to those who need Christ and also engage in those who are spiritually more mature than the others. We can’t forget those who started us, but we have to reach out for more people who simply don’t know God. In my opinion, whatever is true, ethical and interesting should be used to gain more followers of Christ.

  5. April 23, 2008 at 7:09 pm — Reply

    I cut my ministerial teeth learning about “Saddleback Sam” (, the conglomerate target market for Rick Warren’s church dressed in slacks with a wry smile on his face. We were taught that to be effective (a.k.a. get a lot of people to come to your church so you look cool) that we must figure out who our target is and then plan all programs to hit that target. It’s a brilliant way of centering a church’s marketing, but I always had the sneaking suspicion that Jesus wouldn’t much like hanging out with Sam and his really big cell phone.

    I think the church needs to stop buying into all the demographic categories which are fed us by society. We’ve developed our own pollsters to figure out what each of these mysterious “groups” think much like our politicians do. Unfortunately, as with them, it leaves the church out of touch from the real issues. We become experts on “the unchurched” but we don’t know any of them.

    This echoes my personal story. As a pastor at a large church which was all about reaching the lost, I spent most of my time trying conjure up schemes to get people to walk in our doors. One night, we were invited to see watch a band at a bar, and I recall feeling so out of place. Though these were the people I was “targeting”, I could not have been any more disconnected from them.

    So, I think churches should begin to wrestle with these issues as communities, not as CEO-driven organizations trying to maximize shareholder return. Many older folks have driven away from churches because they didn’t fit in the youth movement of the day and that is a tragedy. In fact, I would argue that a church without senior citizens is more dangerous than a church without twenty-somethings.

    Further, we should take this question beyond the old-young dichotomy and apply it to straight-gay, white-black, rich-poor, etc. Perhaps the church should stop niche marketing and start opening our arms to all people, defining community loosely without boundary lines and possessive phrases. Perhaps this organic approach will develop communities which look like families after all.

    Thanks for the post, Todd!

  6. April 24, 2008 at 11:09 am — Reply

    Hello, Todd. Can you please email me so I’ll have your e-address? I went to the link on your blog, but I haven’t heard back from you.

  7. April 24, 2008 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    Just tagged you. will you forgive me?

  8. April 25, 2008 at 3:42 pm — Reply

    The more I think about church, what its goals should be, & how it should operate within the current culture the more I get frustrated with the subject. Its just so all encompassing. Does every generation go through this wrestling match?

  9. Hilde
    May 6, 2008 at 10:09 am — Reply

    Churches should always reach out to all of the unsaved as well as encourage the members they already have. (Any good business major knows that is crucial in building a successful “customer base.”) Yes, if one saved member walks out the door & 10 unsaved walk in that is good, but only if some of those 10 actually become saved.

    Many churches today are abandoning the teachings of the New Testament and creating “worship” services tat are cool & fun in order to bring in more people. Jesus does not want us to adapt His Word so that we can be entertained. That is selfish and soooo not what He is about. These worship in SPIRIT, but not in truth.

    Many churches today are so focused on what we HAVE to do in worship that they don’t have their hearts in it. Jesus does not want us to make rules for Christianity like the Pharisees. That is leagalistic and sooooo not what He is about. These worship in TRUTH but not in spirit.

    We need churches that teach love and a faith that produces works. When we reach that true love & faith, the Bible will guide us in worshiping in TRUTH & SPIRIT!

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Arriving at ineffective