Throughout history, the Church has been consistently changing...
No more bad biscuits and squash
The team shares its visions and dreams for the Church of the future.
At the age of 16, I started attending the services aimed at adults – and had quite a shock. The terminology alone was enough to fly far over my head – and who were all these people who were being mentioned? Wasn’t it just last week I was learning about Jonah and the whale? This confusing middle ground, the gap between Sunday School and the older generation, is where the vast majority of young people lose interest in Church and sometimes faith altogether. I’d like to see more services geared towards the needs of young people, and relevant to their lives – with an active involvement from young people as well.
I’m not suggesting that young people completely take over the services and lead the congregation in a rousing hip hop remix of ‘How Great Thou Art’, but more attempts to integrate us into the workings of the Church would be greatly appreciated. Services are normally aimed at the majority of the church’s members; however, spending even a few minutes every week directly addressing the youth of the church could just be a great opportunity to connect.
I constantly hear that the youth are the future of the Church. But we’re not the future of the Church, we are the Church right now. By saying that we are not part of the Church, as though one day in the future we will be, the Church will only be causing more and more young people to leave.
We are still being treated as though we just need to learn from the older generation, with the exact same teachings they learnt from. Christianity should be a constant journey in discovering your faith, but a ‘journey’ doesn’t work if no one moves forward, and this is the same for the teachings in the Church. Young people are not going to want to sit for an hour listening to someone drone on about the Bible; Christianity has become much more about fellowship, and growing as a community in Christ - but this will never be achieved if the services and teaching is lost among the younger generation. In 20 years’ time I would hope to see the divide between the young and old diminished. I would love to see the youth take on bigger roles within the church, leading services, being part of the worship band, or offering to pray with people.
I constantly hear that the youth are the future of the Church. But we’re not the future of the Church, we are the Church right now
God’s word is, at its best, raw, dynamic and exciting. My vision is to see church leaders sit up and take notice of what is right under their nose: potential. Potential to tutor, potential to mentor, potential to bless, potential to guide and most importantly, potential to further the kingdom. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing a young person grace a church stage for the first time, whether with a guitar blasting out yet another rendition of ‘10,000 Reasons’, or delivering a message - there is something truly magical about it.
My dream is for the Church of the future to harness this. I’ve been to far too many church services that don’t do anything for me as a young person. Surely the Church should be catering for all our needs rather than placing us on the backburner? I’m not talking about some sort of puberty-driven revolution; my vision isn’t a radicalisation or a complete overhaul. My vision is to see young people used more, in whatever capacity. It may be a real cliché to say that adults can learn a lot from young people, but it’s true.
I couldn’t quite figure out why I found church so boring until I moved back to Zimbabwe in 2010. I realised that I had been going to oldfashioned churches with organs and hymn sheets. It was so dull and it confused me, because I thought that church was a place for people to be happy and full of energy to praise God. I go to church for the praise and worship, because I think that music connects with me more than the actual sermon. I’m easily distracted, so praise and worship keeps me focused on what’s really important and doesn’t let my mind drift to other things that aren’t really important. In Zimbabwe, I loved the praise and worship, because most of the songs we sang were a capella. Our voices were not overpowered by any instruments, and that really made people sing with so much passion and connect to God. So, in the future, I would definitely like the praise and worship to be longer - because it’s just too short.
I’m not talking about some sort of puberty-driven revolution – it’s not a complete overhaul. My vision is to see young people being used more, in whatever capacity
The Church I see values community above comfort. It’s purposeful and missional; in other words it is not so focused on itself that it becomes ignorant of the world around it. I pray that the Church wakes up to the call of God to do ‘greater things than these’, healing and comforting the dying and the sick. Imagine a Church devoted to the community around it, like a healthy family rather than a social club, growing around mission and justice, aching for its neighbours! This Church would be the hope of the world. I see the Church taking a new shape in years to come, embracing the reality that it can and will make a difference in the community in Jesus’ name - valuing people above programmes and Jesus above the ways of the world. Is it relevant? Of course it’s relevant! Society is crying out for a Church that is representing Jesus on the earth. Our nations groan that God’s people might take up the sword and fight for love! In Jesus’ name we will respond, putting down our parachutes and snooker cues in exchange for an adventure.
I see a Church where every member is equally important to the others. This means everyone’s opinion is given a listen, irrespective of their age. I see a Church where titles are just a description of what one does and not a status or a symbol of power - it doesn’t make you a better Christian and it does not mean you are holier than others. I see a Church that is built on humility and unity, but in order for this to happen, each person needs to play their part. It would be good to see young people more involved in the running of churches, rather than seeing them as simply the ones to take over. If the Church stays like it is then I fear that there will be very slow and limited growth, and the same pattern will simply continue to repeat itself, over and over again. The youth will grow up with the same mindset as those before them. The youth are often not given a platform to give their views, apart from on special occasions. Shouldn’t the ones who are ‘in tune’ with the times have a more prominent part to play in the Church?
I see a Church where every member is equally important to the others
When light shines, darkness is annihilated. When faith sings, fear is silenced. When hope decides to dance, despair is stilled. The world is in great need of a Church that will love without limits and give of itself without demanding to receive. The Church I see is not a matter of architecture, nor of musical preference, but a movement: an inundation of selfless devotion to bringing a taste of heaven to a broken society.
I envision a Church that influences. Rather than telling others how bad they are, we tell them how good God is. We no longer operate under masks of self-righteousness but accept our imperfections in knowing a God of perfection. The Church should be the quintessence of liberty: devoid of judgemental mentalities and limitations. We need not be afraid to speak out and be bold nor cower amid adversity. We do not change the gospel to suit the world but the world is changed by our gospel. We are not called to run away from what is ugly and hide behind what is beautiful, but to transform what is ugly into something beautiful. The world is waiting for us, ‘For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed’ (Romans 8:19).
I see the Church jam-packed with children. Children and young people have much to teach the older people in the Church, so I see young people teaching adults and leading them in new ways. I see gifted 20s–30s mentoring young people and being fully integrated into Church life. I see adults stepping out in faith and inviting their non-Christian friends to Church. I see elderly people being rocks and mentors for the generation rising up after them. I see women leading from a place of security and confidence and men supporting them. I see a warm welcome to everyone, whatever their background, sexuality or nationality. I see a Church full of ministries for every age group and outreach events for the community. I see villages, towns and cities being brought to life through the local Church.
The Church is one body, so let’s stick together. The oldest person in church should have a relationship with the youngest. Church should be different people, of different ages, with different backgrounds, all coming together to worship one God. Tear yourself away from your ‘natural’ friends and chat to someone 20 years older or younger. I’m almost positive you’ll learn something new from them.
Illustrations by Caleb Adekanmbi