I love a good car show. I always have. Ever since I was a kid, I loved looking at various cars, from exotics, muscles cars, to sports cars of all kinds. It has been a passion of mine as far back as I can remember. I think it had to do with a cartoon program I absolutely loved Speed Racer. Mom told me that I used to run around the house saying “I’m Speed! I’m Speed!” My parents even bought me a pedal car for Christmas/birthday one year that resembled the white Mach 5. I loved that car to death! The love affair with cars began when I was a little boy, and it has stayed with me all my life.
Jennifer and I were attending the Village car show a few weeks back with both the Mustang and the MX5 (incidentally the Mustang won Best in Class). As we were walking around and speaking with our fellow participants, we heard a lot of talk, lament really, about how kids these days have no interest in the car hobby. Before awards were handed out, the MC pleaded with the folks to invite their children and grandchildren to attend shows. He pleaded to allow them to sit in the cars, touch them, and have fun with them. As I looked around at the average participant, I guesstimate that the average age was around 70. Once again, Jen and I were among the youngest people in attendance. I hurts my heart to see so few children interested in classic cars, or really anything automotive. It’s a hard thing for me to relate to, this lack of interest in our rich automotive heritage.
Then it dawned on me, these are the exact same things I hear from people in our church. Where are the children? Why are the young generations not interested in church? How can we attract young people, so our churches don’t die? The fear in the car community is the same as in the church. Apparently, all traditional forms of cultural interests are suffering. From Scouting, lodges, the car hobby, and so many others; attendance is down, and old forms are on the verge of collapse. What, if anything, can we do to turn this situation around?
That is the eternal question. As I was thinking about it in regard to the car hobby, I was thinking that kids need to have a more current point of reference. Perhaps clubs and shows need to allow new cars into their shows and clubs. Perhaps they need to celebrate the new and not simply the old. Perhaps new cars should be just as competitive at shows as the old iron. The kids relate more to that which they see every day than to what they see only rarely. I remember my love for cars didn’t begin with a love of the antique, but rather with the current cars that were on the road, and I saw regularly. Of course, those cars are now all classics. But they weren’t when I was a boy. They were new. They were exciting. They were thrilling to me!
As I look at our congregations, I see the same thing taking place. There is a celebration of all that is old and traditional, but no acknowledgement of the new. Anything new is seen as freighting. Its’s seen as scary, or too fangled. The culture has changed so rapidly that we seek the comfort of sanctuary in our sanctuaries. It is what we are familiar with. It’s comforting. It’s secure and safe. But there is little to no point of reference for young people. The words we use are foreign to them. So is what we do and why we do it.
You see, another aspect of my love of cars came from my father. Dad was a natural mechanic. He worked on all things mechanical. I learned my love of cars also due to his love for them. He passed on this love to me. One of the reasons kids aren’t interested is the fact that their fathers aren’t interested. It’s difficult to pass on the torch to the next generation when there is no one who is holding the torch to begin with.
The same things hold true for our faith. In our Sunday study on Deuteronomy, God speaks of the importance of passing on what we have learned about God to the next generations. We are to pass it on, remind our children of God’s grace and love for us. We are to tell them the stories and pattern faith in our daily lives, so that they see how important it really is; that it is not simply a tradition of religiosity, but alive and living- faith in action.
Just as kids need a point of reference in the car hobby, so do they need reference and a love instilled into them, by their parents. “Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old, they will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Train up. Raise up. Bring up. These are related to instilling a true love of God via His Word and our actions in the hearts and minds of children. If they see how important it truly is to us; if they see us putting it into practice (not just talking about it) then they will see, know and be enlightened through the Word in action.
My mind is always working, thinking and active in how we can reach out to younger folks. It is extremely challenging when, in essence, we have none. So, what do we do? Where do we go? Of course, we go to God in prayer. We pray that His will be done. We pray for revival in our hearts and minds. We pray for a fuller portion of His Spirit. Then we do.
We are going to continue our community feedings this year, on a quarterly basis. I want to reach out to the youth of our community and invite them to get involved in service to our community by feeding people. What’s different today than when we were young, is that they need the carrot of service hours to entice them, so that their college resumes are padded out. I’m not a huge fan of this, but you work with what you got. Perhaps through the lure of service hours kids will get to know us. Perhaps they may become interested in putting faith into action. Perhaps they may be attracted to living a Christian life, not for service hours, but as a fruit of faith. When we have contact with them, we can model our faith in action. Through this modeling, perhaps they will ask questions. Then we can answer why our faith is important to us. We can answer with God’s Word. We can speak of what Jesus truly means to us and why He motivates us. I have seen this happen in the lives of many people over the years. It’s all about personal contact and relationships.
Another way I am planning on inviting younger folks, is by engaging them in new forms of worship. I am curating a worship experience for Advent/Christmas that is nontraditional and engages sights and sounds. I am curating a self-guided devotion related to the birth of Jesus. I have chosen 14 pieces of art, one for each event in Jesus’ advent and birth. Along with each painting, I include the scripture readings which relate to each event. Along with the readings and the art, I include hymns that pertain to each event, as well. In addition to the art, readings, and music, I also have prayers and meditations for each station. In putting it all together, I will create QR codes for each station that will be scanned by cell phones that will link a person automatically to the readings, prayers and music. There will be seven “stations” on each side of the sanctuary. Each person will go to each station and scan the code, use their ear buds, look at the art, listen to the readings and music, and pray the prayers. I won’t be leading this worship. I am curating it so that each person may experience it for themselves. Think of going to see a museum exhibition.
Now I know, many people are going to be fearful of scanning a QR code (it's easy!). I encourage you to try, and I and others will be there to show you how easy and intuitive it is. I will have books put together for those who are still too fearful, but they won’t get the full experience of the worship (no music, or readings simultaneously). I am inviting congregations of Slidell to come and experience this devotional. I want people to come, walk through the stations, and be edified via God’s Word, music and art. We will have our sanctuary opened on certain days and times so people may come and worship. I see every Wednesday in Advent our sanctuary being open during certain times of the morning, afternoon, and evening. We will still be doing our regular midweek Advent services. We will continue to do Holden Evening Prayer. I see people combining these worship experiences. Come and do devotions before Evening Prayer or stay after Evening Prayer and do devotions. Let’s meet people, especially younger people where they are at.
In addition, we have our LoG Jam Listening Lounge every second Thursday of the month at Bistro 55. People of all ages are invited to share in a common love of music. Again, it is a means by which we meet our neighbors, fellow musicians, and people of all walks of life. As I always say, it’s all about relationships.
Speaking of car shows, I am planning our own car show here at LoG to coincide with our Spring Joy Boutique. The ladies will pick the date. It is just another way of opening ourselves up to meeting our neighbors and make those relationships.
There’re no quick or easy answers to how to get young people involved in either the car hobby, or church. It is going to take a lot of time, energy, effort, and faithfulness (being strengthened by The Holy Spirit), to build these relationships with people. This is why we pray that penitential Psalm every week, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your free Spirit, so that I may tell transgressors Your ways, so that sinners may turn back to You” (Psalm 51:10-13). Amen!