Read Acts 13:13-52
Paul and Barnabas never give up, do they? They go to visit this town and they start by talking about things the townspeople already know. Isn’t that what it’s like when going to a new place and needing to fit in? You need to figure out what matters to them.
That’s what Paul and Barnabas do. They talk about the faith and scriptures the people there already know. Then they tell the story of Jesus. Then they connect it back to what is already known. They’re invited back after that! Which is amazing. Then they mentor some people.
It’s harder for us, I think. The church has long since separated itself from culture and we have a hard time bridging that gap. We see culture as the enemy and so we don’t want to learn about it or participate in it at all. But to be like Paul and Barnabas, we have to. To get to know the new generation, we have to learn what matters to them.
This isn’t a new concept. It’s been said before, but as part of that younger and newer generation, I fear and feel we’re not being listened to. I fear and feel that we’re often ignored or put into categories for no reason.
We’re told we’re immoral, unethical. We’re told that we don’t live up to standards. Well the fact is, we have different standards and we do live up to them. Recently on of my congregations and I read the book Growing Young which talks a lot about how to talk to younger generations, how to interact with us, how to be with us. I found myself nodding my head along to a lot of what was written going, “yeah, of course!” but I figured a lot of my older congregants, a lot of the people I work with on a daily basis, wouldn’t have thought of any of that.
Being in a small church gives us advantages to some of this. We’re far more relational and intergenerational than bigger churches, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect at doing these things. Every church I’ve interviewed at always says they want young people to come. One of my congregations hired a “young minister” thinking “hire her and they will come.”
It simply does not work that way, and they’re starting to realize that. It takes work and effort. It takes starting with what that generation already knows, introducing a new story, reminding them that use you know where they come from, and then praying for an invitation back into their lives. It takes mentoring and time. It takes strategy and God.