Does Your Church Feel Like a Home? byfor The Gospel Coalition
Some years ago, a married couple left a church in search of Sunday sermons that would better appeal to their bored, disengaged teenage son. Sadly, it was a fool’s errand. The problem wasn’t the preaching but the parents. They were sporadic in attendance, had declined to pursue membership, and seemed happiest when their commitment level was lowest. What their son needed wasn’t entertaining preaching but engaged parents—parents who modeled committed love for a local church (imperfect preaching and all). Unsurprisingly, the new preaching at the new church failed to light a spiritual fire, and the family soon left that new church with the same old problem. The son, now in his 20s, no longer attends church.
By way of stark contrast, I spoke recently with a family in a church that averages 40 to 50 people on a Sunday morning. The parents have been members for 17 years. One of the factors that first drew them was the clear opportunity to contribute, which is exactly what they’ve done ever since arriving. They currently lead singing and help with the children’s work, and the husband is an elder. Although they’ve struggled somewhat with the lack of a youth group and the scarcity of kids their sons’ ages, their boys now participate in ministry and are friends with numerous adults in the congregation (some of whom have become mentors). These cross-generational relationships have been a source of joy for both the parents and also their sons.
Why are younger people leaving the church in droves? There are surely multiple reasons, and there’s no single, surefire strategy for keeping them. But here’s one intriguing factor demonstrated by research: most kids who leave a church have no close friendships or mentoring relationships with adults in the church. The kids who stay are much more likely to have such friendships. It turns out that inter-generational relationships are important.
That’s just one of many reasons why Lee Eclov’s Feels Like Home: How Rediscovering the Church as Family Changes Everything is an important and timely read. It’s a biblically rooted and winsomely written invitation to understand your local church primarily as a family. It’s also a practical guide for helping you make it increasingly feel and function that way. Eclov has served in pastoral ministry for more than 40 years, which means he knows the ugly aspects of Christian community. No naïveté here. But alongside a healthy dose of realism is a genuine, infectious affection for the local church. Eclov writes like an enthusiastic father urging his kids to enjoy what he enjoys. The book is chock-full of stories—some funny, some deeply moving.