I met my hairdresser’s eyes in the mirror. “How do you go to church?” she said.

My mind stumbled around, trying to understand what she meant. I asked for clarification, “Do you mean why do I go? Or do you mean how specifically do I go about going?”

“How do you go about going? What happens? What do you do?”

I was momentarily confused. I’d gone to church since I was a newborn. Learning to do this was something I’d never had to do. Until she asked this question, I’d never considered that anyone might not know how. It was entirely outside my experience. This was a revelation.

Try and pay attentionCreative Commons License Cayce via Compfight

Being unfamiliar with church may not be all that uncommon. Recent surveys show that 32% of those under thirty have no church affiliation. And most of that generation has had mostly negative experiences with church, even those whose parents took them all their lives.

Something must change or the American church will die. That it die in its current form is probably a good thing. It must be reborn. I’ve been tweeting and posting from various sources on this topic lately—tactics, church abuse, etc.

It’s good when God winnows the church. Another word for this is reformation. Unless we can see outside our little world with all its shoulds and expectations, the American church won’t make it.

This isn’t the story all around the world. In South America, Africa, and Asia, God is on the move. People are trusting Christ, lives are being transformed, and whole families are shifting to a biblical mindset.

Church event in India

But here, as in Europe before us, we have failed our younger generations. One error we’ve committed is not seen in these countries where the gospel is changing everything. We have segregated our young.

In the booming churches on other continents, children worship and learn alongside their parents. It’s assumed, as it always has been throughout church history, that we all need to stay together, that the young are brought along in fellowship with the old, that they are the future of the church, so they must watch the church in action.

We’ve also imposed a series of expectations, rules, methods, and tactics that are entirely out of touch with the next generation. It doesn’t matter how we used to do things when WE were young. It’s immaterial. We need to reach THEM.

It is not sinful to adapt. It is sinful not to.

30 Days of gratitude- Day 21Creative Commons License aussiegall via Compfight

So, how did I answer my hairdresser? First I asked if she had a Bible. She did, but she had never read it. I explained the Old Testament and the New. I suggested she begin reading the book of John and then the other gospels, so she could find out who Jesus is. I told her where to find these in the table of contents.

Then we discussed why she had never gone before and why she wanted to go now. It was obvious God was drawing her to himself, but she was afraid of judgmental Christians. “I am too,” I informed her. She laughed. She had many past experiences with preachy, off-putting people who seemed hypocritical (me, too – I used to be one).

Based on her needs, we discussed several churches she might want to visit (mine included, but others that might fit her need, too).

Then I described how to do it.

  • She was glad and pleased to hear she could just walk right in the front door, sit down, not interact with anyone, and then leave. For her first attempt she was pretty uncomfortable with the idea of anyone talking to her.
  • At the same time, she didn’t want to be invisible. Though she didn’t expect to meet any friendly people at church, she decided that if someone nice talked to her she would definitely respond.
  • When I told her if she didn’t feel welcome or the message didn’t encourage or challenge her in any way, she didn’t have to go back to that church, she was relieved. She could try another.

With my encouragement, she went. The first church didn’t fit, and she moved on to the next. Last I knew, she was still trying to find a fit. I hope she does.

How did we get to this place? What else needs to change?

Action plan: If your pastor suggests ways to include the community, to reach out, to welcome people for fun and fellowship, GET ON BOARD! My recommendation: Start Here.