Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Drop-outs
by Thom & Sam Rainer
by Thom & Sam Rainer
Chapter 1Consider this quote from a church drop-out called Joe: I guess I never saw how my faith and my church connected. I knew I was saved. I knew I was sinning. I felt convicted about living this lifestyle. But I didn’t see how it all tied in to the church.
study composed by Rev. Anderson T. Graves II
study composed by Rev. Anderson T. Graves II
We assume that everyone in church knows that they’re supposed to live right. We assume that everyone who’s been saved will strive to be holy. The author’s research indicates that those assumptions are wrong. People who were members of a church but become church drop outs typically maintain interest in spiritual matters and describe themselves as people of “faith.” However, they don’t see the connection between their faith and a church. In other words: They aren’t dropping their faith. But they are dropping the church.
1. What can our churches do to make real and essential the connection between what we do at church and how we live away from the church house?
20% of high school students who are members of church of a church actually plan to stop attending church when they move out of their parents’ home. The other 80%, the vast majority, plan to stay in the church.
2. From the stats above, we can conclude that most kids don’t drop out of church just to get free from their parents rules. Losing teen as they enter young adulthoold isn’t ineveitable. How do we apply this news in the church’s approach to teens?
In the parable of the sower (Mark 4: 1-20), productivity/ success isn’t marked when the seeds come up as plants. The seeds only succeed when they come up and bear fruit themselves. Another point is that the productivity of the seed is based on the type of soil on which it is sown.
3. Of the types of ground mentioned in Mark 4, which kind best describes the environment for young believers in your church? What “treatments” are most needed to make the soil more productive?
Interest in religious matters increases in college, but attendance of religious service decreases until about 3 years after college graduation.
4. What needs and opportunities does this present for the church?
The major source of disillusionment within the church stems not from the expected differences of worship style wrs, time slots, day of worship, or even geographic location of the church. while some do leave for these oft-stated reasons, the major loss originates from the lack of discipleship within our churches. (p. 31)
To be blunt, God has converted our children, but we have failed to disciple them. (p. 30)
5. Describe the specific means by which a new Christian in your church is developed into a mature believer? Can you?
The majority of chapter 1 is a section titled “Back to the Basics.” The authors make the case that the fundamental problem with retaining active members is that we have over-complicated what church means.
This section deals with 8 premises (in italics):
#1 People are Looking for more but not finding it in church.
#2 People make a decision to leave or return to church usually When past experiences collide with future opportunities.
#3 Dropouts usually just want church to Give me a break!
#4 A major reason for dropping out of, staying out of, or returning to church is The people of the church.
#5 Most church dropouts/ stayouts say “I just don’t feel connected to the people anymore.”
#6 Dropouts and stayins agree that a critical factor is The pastor of the church.
#7 An equally (or more) critical factor is The parents of the church.
#8 There is no separating The essential church and the essential gospel.
6. Take one or more of these premises and explain it in the same length as a Facebook post (420 characters). Then post your explanation(s) on Facebook and see what comments you get.
A former church dropout called Matt (pgs. 34, 35) described how he sacrificed time at church to spend time with a new baby and work the long hours at his job. After a while his wife and he felt a ‘void in our lives.” When asked if going back to church had filled that void, Matt answered, “No.” He didn’t so much want church, but he wanted to walk in the call of God on his life. He said, “I needed to be the man for my family that God was calling me to be.”
Matt didn’t blame his former church, but he said he was never personally challenged there.
Matt is now a lay leader in his [new] church. His current church challenges him, and he is part of a mentoring group for those working through a call to ministry. He preaches occasionally on Sunday nights. Matt now feels the church is essential to his life. While he still struggles with his work schedule and balancing family life (and who doesn’t), the church is a key component of helping him do that.
7. How do we challenge believers and help them figure out how to meet those challenges?
8. Is asking them to take a church office or be on a church “program” the same as challenging them to live for God?
9. How do we impart the idea that taking “a break” from church is equivalent to taking a break from God? is it?
10. The people who report a disconnect with the people of the church were members of their churches. What mechanisms need to exist in our churches so that people feel connected to one another?
A myth repeatedly discredited in the book is the idea that young people prefer events and programs rather than substantive teaching and discipling. Essentially, young people leave the church because we have dumbed down the gospel while simultaneously increasing the complexity of church (Can you say “Pharisees”?)
11. What is an “authentic” church?
An essential church does not compete for sanctuary fillers. An essential church battles the dark powers for the hearts and minds of the lost. (p. 39)
12. Have we over-emphasized or under-emphasized adding to the numbers on our church rolls? What problems come from either approach? What is the correct approach?
65% of the people who stayed in church said that the senior pastor’s sermons were “engaging.” 63% of those who stayed said the pastor’s sermons were “relevant.”
13. How should considerations of “engaging” and “relevant” factor into sermon preparation?
Students are 20% more likely to stay in church when their parents are “authentic in their faith.”
14. What does your church do to help parents share their faith with their kids? What should your church do? Be specific.
Amos 8: 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east. They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it. 13 “In that day the fair virgins and strong young men shall faint from thirst. “
Our young sistes and our young brothers (Amos 8: 13) are thirsty for the Word of God. They want to be told how the Bible says they are supposed to live. Think about it. Everything in the world already tells them that it’s O.K. to live anyway they want. If we deliver the same message or fail to deliver a different message (effectively the same thing), they we make ourselves irrelevant. Why do they need church if it only gives them the same crap they get everywhere else?
15. Essential churches are vessels out of which pours the living water of the Holy Spirit. What can you do in the next month that will move your church more fully into being that vessel?
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116