The Next Generation and The Church

By: Dom Ruso, Lead Pastor at the180

Over the past few weeks we've been working hard to develop structures that will help us journey with families and engage the next generation. We recently announced that the180 Families website section is slowly coming together. As a start we've created a summer event section on the180 Youth page to help youth meet, make friends and connect with others throughout the summer.  

As a dad and a pastor, I often wonder what it will take to create spaces in our church for the next generation to explore their faith, question their assumptions, and embrace the love of Jesus. There are some who believe that having a cool, hip, contemporary church that feels like a concert may somehow attract and engage that next generation of young people.

While this might have an attractive appeal, at the180 we believe that today's digital generation desire a deeper and more rooted exploration of their faith.

In a recent devotional, I was reading through the book of the minor prophet Amos. Amos, like all the prophets, was called to awaken the people of God to the blind spots emerging from their sinful and selfish ways. At one point, commenting on their behaviour towards the youth of the nation, he writes,

 “I [God] also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths. [...] But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy”  (Amos 2:11, 12).

Over the past few months I’ve read a number of articles which depict the next generation, often called millenials, very negatively. It's actually been disappointing to see many church leaders quick to highlight the negatives of today's youth culture without suggesting the possibility that God might be at work through their struggles, questions and insights.

Amos had to remind the Israelites that God was at work in the youth of the nation—that from within their ranks were unique voices of wisdom and that instead of being listened to, they were being silenced and ignored. In other words, rather than growing through the insights of a new generation of spiritual leaders, pride and unlearning won out.

My question is: might we be doing the same today? What would it mean to be a church that takes this warning seriously? How can we avoid this type of prideful leadership?

One of the places where we are learning to discuss and discover what these new spaces might look like is Leadership Sundays. In this context, we try to create space for conversations which help use to engage our own leadership emerging at the180. Our goal is to wrestle through the questions and challenges that many people in our culture, especially millenials, have about faith, justice, suffering and leadership.

A few weeks ago I got a note from a young girl who has been on our core team and processing her faith in Jesus at a deeper level. Her note was touching and honest and was an encouraging reminder of the necessary work ahead of us. She wrote, "While I've been to church for years I never felt right to invite anyone, but last week I did for the first time. Why? Because I finally found a church that feels like home."

This brief note was an important reminder of the urgent need to learn with the next generation and to be a church who can offer our youth an invitation to dialogue at a common table.

Here are some ways you can respond to what you've just read:

  • Pray with us for a few leaders who are passionate about the next generation and ready to teach and serve them and their families.
  • Consider what it would mean to join a prayer team focused on our youth, their school, peers and families.
  • Lastly, try to learn one thing that you didn't know from a young person in your life. Ask them for help, or ask them to explain something they love to you and thank them for their insight.