Is there a future for the traditional church?

That’s something a lot of people are wondering these days. Especially now that one study after another is showing worrying figures. Newspapers regularly report about churches that have to close. But where the overall tone is pessimistic, we especially want to be involved in what God is doing. Because this is also part of His church. God never gives up on His church. Against the general trend, there is also a major movement going on in the Netherlands when it comes to revival of the church! Every denomination is searching and discussing its future and survival. And I can tell you from my own experience: nothing is more beautiful to be involved in His recovery work!

Pioneers
Did you know, for example, that dozens of pioneering initiatives are growing within the PKN? And that new missionary ideas are now resulting in new churches? Other denominations are also finding new paths. ‘Assenzoekt’ (www.assenzoekt.nl) is, for example, such an initiative. Principles are applied here that seem to work for the longer term.

Urgency
The urgency for change is palpable almost everywhere. Christian media write weekly about new initiatives and also about new insights content and form of church and theology. The Kingdom of God is the theme there. This is also reflected in many conferences, central days, synods and overarching meetings. I also notice that at the church councils where Royal Mission invites me, they realize very well that something needs to be done. The courage and courage increases to actually do things differently. Because in any case: they want to reach the next generation with the most important message there is. Many church councils realize that, especially for young families with children, teenagers and young people, something needs to change to hold them and, more importantly, connect them to the heart of God the Father. Elements during the service should not be a barrier to this.

Liturgy
That is why worship on Sundays has now become a recurring element that is discussed. The beautifully decorated liturgy has built people up for decades, but is now ready for change. While older generations from ‘modernism’ emphasize knowledge of faith, the young people want to be addressed by experiencing faith (post-modernism). In a number of churches in North Friesland where we can help build in the field of youth work, the worship service is now being redesigned one Sunday a month. These services now focus specifically on the experiences of families with children, teenagers and young adults. How hopeful?!

Lots at Stake
The consequence for the implementation of these services is, for example, that very little from the songbook is sung anymore. Quite a change for people who have done this for generations and found great comfort and experience in it. A game is often played at the start of the service and there is, for example, a music group that provides accompaniment to the singing. For many people this is a significant adjustment to what they are used to. A conscious effort is made to look for ‘a connector’ who can connect the various parts together instead of just letting the pastor speak. Giving other people a place helps to make more people feel ‘at home’.

Pain point
A frequently heard pain point with these new services is that a lot has to be changed at once. “Can’t teenagers and young families also take the elderly into account?” However, experience shows that older people can often adapt, but that the majority of young people find this much more difficult. If they no longer feel at home, they simply won’t come anymore. And how do they come into contact with the Father? ‘No matter how much adjustment hurts, love requires sacrifices and demands nothing. If love drives you, do you occasionally dare to put your own tastes or preferences aside? And let’s be honest, what is a Sunday in the month?

How?
Many people get very excited about the idea of ​​a family service, but often wonder; ‘How do I do that?’ As a Royal Mission, we discuss this with churches to understand what the need is, what drives them, where the pain is and how we can help? We always start with the composition of a team. We then discuss and answer the question in advance: “How do we want the neighborhood/village to speak about ‘our’ church and the services in 5 years’ time? What are we really doing it for?” Does hope need to be found, do we want people to say they feel welcome? Or should the church help them in all kinds of practical matters? In short, for what reasons do we want the church to continue to exist and be known? First knowing what really drives you gives you focus on how you organize your church service, among other things.

Mutual love
We urgently ask the question: “Why is the church there in the first place?” What things was the church known for in the beginning of its existence? Jesus said, among other things, “By your love for one another everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). The result was… and they were favored by all the people (Acts 2:47). All of Jerusalem spoke positively about the church, imagine!! What an attraction. What does this tell you about your own church? About your attraction? Are shapes allowed to get in the way? But also about what you are stuck with. Do you not want to give up something because, for example, you find change difficult or because you receive support from it? Is God one-sided or are we?

Knowing more?
Would you like to hear more about how we guide this process in churches with a youth worker, or are you curious about other topics? child and youth work? Next Thursday, October 10, we will give a workshop on this at the inspiration evening for children and youth work that we organize as Royal Mission at GKV de Morgenster in Leeuwarden.
You can still register: https://www.royalmission.nl/activities/inspiratiedagen/

About Gerlof Wiersma

Man van Margreet - Vader van drie kanjers - Jeugdwerker, spreker en gepassioneerd voor de PKN

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