Poll

Do your children and/or grandchildren go to church? (You can check more than one box)

My child(ren) is(are) active in a church of my Lutheran denomination.
21 (41.2%)
My child(ren) is(are) active in a church of a different Lutheran denomination.
4 (7.8%)
My child(ren) is(are) active in a church of a different denomination.
5 (9.8%)
My child(ren) is(are) not active in a church.
7 (13.7%)
My grandchild(ren) is(are) active in a church of my Lutheran denomination.
5 (9.8%)
My grandchild(ren) is(are) active in a church of different Lutheran denomination.
1 (2%)
My grandchild(ren) is(are) active in a church of a different denomination.
4 (7.8%)
My grandchild(ren) is(are) not active in a church.
4 (7.8%)

Total Members Voted: 31

Author Topic: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.  (Read 4018 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« on: November 01, 2022, 12:52:35 AM »
I'm at our synod's retirees retreat. (The first one I've attended.)
Dr. David Lose is the key speaker and his general topic is: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church - and what can we do about it. (He's in the process of writing a book on this topic - but has slowed since accepting the call as a pastor of a very large congregation.


He is the senior pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN, one of the largest ELCA congregations.
Prior to that, he was president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
Before that, he taught on the faculty of Luther Seminary for 14 years.


He's giving three presentations:
1. Exploring the Cultural Landscape in which We Minister
2. Spiritual but not Religious - How We Became a Church without Youth
3. Faith that is Caught, Not Taught - What Can We Do


My impression is that many of the retired clergy at this retreat have children and grandchildren who are not attending church.


A key reason from his first presentation is that they live in a different culture than we oldsters grew up in. He related a story from a colleague about a family who made a list of all their activities and what they were getting out of them. Attending church didn't make the cut. Making such a decision was not on my parent's radar when we were growing up. Sunday morning we went to church. In addition, to even ask, "What am I getting out of it?" wasn't a question we asked.


It should be an interesting two more days.
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dave Benke

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2022, 08:58:11 AM »
Keep us informed on this, Brian - these kinds of conversations take place all the time.  Would love to hear the perspectives of Dr. Lose and those at the retreat.
A little self-interest here, because I'm one of the speakers at the Veterans of the Cross retreat in March, which functions as the LCMS version of a church-wide senior retreat.

Dave Benke
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Jeremy_Loesch

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2022, 09:27:58 AM »
Pres. Benke, contact Tyler Arnold at Village in Ladue MO. He spoke on this topic in a fine fashion at the 2021 MO Dist pastor's conference.

Jeremy

Dave Benke

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2022, 10:15:50 AM »
Pres. Benke, contact Tyler Arnold at Village in Ladue MO. He spoke on this topic in a fine fashion at the 2021 MO Dist pastor's conference.

Jeremy

Thanks!

Dave Benke
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pastorg1@aol.com

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2022, 10:41:17 AM »
I spoke often to my son about the wonder and delight of having a Christian wife and his having a Christian mother.
Going to a Christian college and marrying  a Christian woman kept him on an even keel.

Basic sales job (features and benefits) with the Holy Spirit as the “closer.”

Peter (Deo gratias) Garrison
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Charles Austin

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2022, 10:48:21 AM »
I have said this before. Back in the 40s and 50s, many went to church not because of intense must-be-practiced faith (except for maybe Roman Catholics), but because it was just what people did. Church was a social center, a place where you met friends, and there was strong pressure to have one's children baptized, confirmed and active in Luther League (or Walther League, or Methodist Youth Fellowship). We kids went to Luther League because our friends were there. Church was "it" for social activities. In later teen-dom, things like DeMolay, Rainbow Girls, Scouting and sports made some incursions into church life.
   On the block where one lived, almost everybody went to church and if a family didn't there was scowling from others. That family dropped a bit on the neighborhood scale of goodness.
   When my children reached their teens, church youth groups had disappeared, and church was not the place to go to see friends and find entertainment.
   The parents' example - if given - about practicing a deeply-felt faith worked, but not completely. When our daughter came to Minnesota for college, she found that more of her friends were "churched" than in New Jersey.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2022, 11:02:40 AM »
Pastor Charles-

True. And, the college selection I believe is crucial.
Many of our neighbors sent their children to faraway colleges and the children came back with faraway spouses with faraway faith-systems.

Peter (No real surprise) Garrison
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peterm

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2022, 11:20:25 AM »
It seems to me that one of the issues the church at large struggles with might be relevance.  It's a tough thing for us who have grown up immersed in this to wrap our heads around but i think this is a question for many unchurched or formerly churched folk.  What difference does the church make?  Now....One can and should make the eternal salvation argument, but you also have to show skeptical people what the church looks like "boots on the ground."  Is the church engaged in the community in some way beyond simply "Here we are and y'all should come?"  I doubt we will ever get back to the church as social center in the way that Charles mentioned, but there are any number of ways we can still engage with the community and be open and relevant.
Rev. Peter Morlock- ELCA pastor serving two congregations in WIS

Dan Fienen

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2022, 12:20:49 PM »
Not to minimize current concerns about the decline of churches in the 21st century, but we need to keep some prospective. I was born in 1952 so for me, the good old days was the 50s and 60s. That also was a high tide mark for church participation in America. During those post WWII and Korea years the percentage of the American population attending church on the average Sunday was higher not only than in the decades following, but also higher than for many decades before. Those were the good ol' days for American churches. The nation was booming after the war years and churches were prospering with them. It would be unrealistic to expect the good times to simply continue to roll for church as for the economy or anything else.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2022, 12:28:16 PM »
There have been several articles recently examining the correlations between the decline of the family and the decline of religious observance across all religions. There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between strong traditional families and active religious participation across cultural and religious boundaries. What has skyrocketed has been a sense of meaninglessness. Family (especially becoming a parent) generally gives people a self-evident sense of meaning and purpose. Like birds busily flying back and forth to feed a young nestful of mouths, parents have it built into them to sense that there is something worthwhile and even sacred about a human life. And religious observance imparts that sense of meaning and purpose to daily life as well. Often marriage or childrearing is what gets people active in church again (or for the first time) because what they now know in the depths of their being what they had previously only been told-- that there is a profound, mysterious significance to life-- is something they see religion addressing.

Our (meaning our society's in general) children and grandchildren don't typically go to church and don't typically seek to have a lot of children and grandchildren themselves. They're adrift in meaninglessness and trying to fill the void with sports, drugs, pornography, travel and "extreme experiences," or simple self-absorbed pursuit of creature comforts that gradually lose their ability to comfort. 

Tom Eckstein

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2022, 01:07:27 PM »
There are four ELCA congregations in Jamestown, ND.  According to my "Free Lutheran" pastor friend (who was an ELCA pastor in Jamestown back in the 1990s), in the 1990s two of the four ELCA congregations in Jamestown had 500+ people in church every week.  Now, in 2022, those same two ELCA congregations have 60 and 90 in church every week, respectively (and the other two have far LESS!).  Even though my LCMS congregation is doing better and has more in attendance than any of the four ELCA congregations (even though our actual baptized membership is far less than them) - our weekly attendance has also declined. We were up to 220 per week back in 2007 and now we average 125 per week.  We were around 170 per week pre-covid, and so we are still working on recovering from that.  Having said that, all the other non-Lutheran Christians denominations in Jamestown are facing the same severe decline in church attendance - and so it's not unique to Lutherans.

So, how do we deal with this?  First, I try to look at this current trend from a historical point of view.  Simply put, if you study Scripture we see a cycle of one generation failing to pass on the faith with the result that the next generations stray from the Lord until the Lord intervenes and brings people back - and then the cycle resumes.

So how do we attract youth and keep the youth we already have?  We delude ourselves if we think the answer is entertaining the youth, making church fun or relevant.  The answer to attracting and keeping youth - and people of ALL ages, for that matter - has never changed, and that is preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins and living that out in our families.

Why did youth join the Christian church in the 1st century when the result would be turning away from sins they enjoyed and persecution on top of that?  They joined because the Holy Spirit gave them new hearts of repentance and faith in Christ through the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins.  There is no guarantee of how people are going to respond to God's Word in any given culture or time - but we continue to speak the Truth in love nevertheless and let God handle the numbers.  Anything else we do to attempt to manipulate the situation won't help or will not give the results that God wants.

As God's OT people were preparing to enter the promised land, Joshua said:  "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"  Each Christian family must make this their priority along with proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in our spiritually dead culture.  This is the ONLY way people will begin to hunger and thirst for the gifts of God's Divine Service once again.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2022, 01:11:00 PM by Tom Eckstein »
I'm an LCMS Pastor in Jamestown, ND.

Charles Austin

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2022, 04:03:19 PM »
Amen, Pastor Eckstein, amen.
Peter wants to blame everything, including bad weather, on what he thinks is the decline of the family. I’m not buying that.
I believe in the Spirit’s power to reach people and bring them in and keep them in.  I also believe in the power of human arrogance and foolishness to screw up the proclamation of the Gospel, to clutter it with unnecessary baggage, to confound it with human obsessions, to make it hard to understand, to cause even the merciful grace of God to lose its appeal.
Listen to the people who have fallen away from church or have never established a solid relationship with the community of faith. Hear what they think the church is. Hear what they think being a Christian means.
Where did they get those ideas? You tell me.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. LCA/LWF staff. Former journalist  Writer for many church publications.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2022, 04:07:17 PM »
It seems to me that one of the issues the church at large struggles with might be relevance.  It's a tough thing for us who have grown up immersed in this to wrap our heads around but i think this is a question for many unchurched or formerly churched folk.  What difference does the church make?  Now....One can and should make the eternal salvation argument, but you also have to show skeptical people what the church looks like "boots on the ground."  Is the church engaged in the community in some way beyond simply "Here we are and y'all should come?"  I doubt we will ever get back to the church as social center in the way that Charles mentioned, but there are any number of ways we can still engage with the community and be open and relevant.


That was part of the presentation. People consider the benefits vs. the time spent for all of their activities. The opening example Dr. Lose gave was about a family who found that the benefits weren't worth the time and effort - especially when compared to the many other activities they were involved in.
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2022, 04:10:08 PM »
Not to minimize current concerns about the decline of churches in the 21st century, but we need to keep some prospective. I was born in 1952 so for me, the good old days was the 50s and 60s. That also was a high tide mark for church participation in America. During those post WWII and Korea years the percentage of the American population attending church on the average Sunday was higher not only than in the decades following, but also higher than for many decades before. Those were the good ol' days for American churches. The nation was booming after the war years and churches were prospering with them. It would be unrealistic to expect the good times to simply continue to roll for church as for the economy or anything else.


I was born in 1949. I was raised in Oregon, which most surveys rated as the least churched state in the union during my growing-up years. As I recall, only 29% of the population called themselves "churched." It was quite a different culture than when I served in the midwest where churches were the center of the small community's activities.



"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church.
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2022, 04:12:41 PM »
There are four ELCA congregations in Jamestown, ND.  According to my "Free Lutheran" pastor friend (who was an ELCA pastor in Jamestown back in the 1990s), in the 1990s two of the four ELCA congregations in Jamestown had 500+ people in church every week.  Now, in 2022, those same two ELCA congregations have 60 and 90 in church every week, respectively (and the other two have far LESS!).  Even though my LCMS congregation is doing better and has more in attendance than any of the four ELCA congregations (even though our actual baptized membership is far less than them) - our weekly attendance has also declined. We were up to 220 per week back in 2007 and now we average 125 per week.  We were around 170 per week pre-covid, and so we are still working on recovering from that.  Having said that, all the other non-Lutheran Christians denominations in Jamestown are facing the same severe decline in church attendance - and so it's not unique to Lutherans.

So, how do we deal with this?  First, I try to look at this current trend from a historical point of view.  Simply put, if you study Scripture we see a cycle of one generation failing to pass on the faith with the result that the next generations stray from the Lord until the Lord intervenes and brings people back - and then the cycle resumes.

So how do we attract youth and keep the youth we already have?  We delude ourselves if we think the answer is entertaining the youth, making church fun or relevant.  The answer to attracting and keeping youth - and people of ALL ages, for that matter - has never changed, and that is preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins and living that out in our families.

Why did youth join the Christian church in the 1st century when the result would be turning away from sins they enjoyed and persecution on top of that?  They joined because the Holy Spirit gave them new hearts of repentance and faith in Christ through the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins.  There is no guarantee of how people are going to respond to God's Word in any given culture or time - but we continue to speak the Truth in love nevertheless and let God handle the numbers.  Anything else we do to attempt to manipulate the situation won't help or will not give the results that God wants.

As God's OT people were preparing to enter the promised land, Joshua said:  "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"  Each Christian family must make this their priority along with proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in our spiritually dead culture.  This is the ONLY way people will begin to hunger and thirst for the gifts of God's Divine Service once again.


Unless folks stand on the fact that each one is a sinner and is guilty before God’s righteous face, will there be any chance that Christ’s forgiveness for sin to be effective in a person’s life.  Luther rightly called for one’s whole life to be a matter of repentance:  Thesis 1 of the 95.

But if everyone is secure in themselves and wants to shore up more ephemeral means for a security which really does not endure, but trusts that their feeble means toward security is sufficient, then there is no hope, at that point.