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Churches changing to bring in younger generation

| March 20, 2018

COSHOCTON – The Christian church as a whole has lost approximately 96 percent of the millennial generation.

“That number is staggering,” said Andy Loos, pastor at Liberty Church, 219 N. 15th St., Coshocton. “If we don’t do something to reach this generation, Christianity will become extinct. I feel God will not lose this generation but it will take the church to reshift their focus to reach this generation. In the last few months, this has been on my heart. The Lord has really put it on my heart to reach this generation.”

That’s exactly what some churches in Coshocton County are doing. By adding praise bands, various lighting, projectors, and being available on the web through websites and social media, churches are reaching out to the younger generation in a different way while still preaching the Gospel.

“The Gospel never changes,” said Chad Olinger, pastor of New Pointe Community Church, 1203 Cambridge Road. “The truth of Jesus Christ never changes. We never want to make church of the world. We want to create a safe place for people to come and learn the truth. We are willing to do things outside of the box to engage the community and engage the millennials.”

Mike Jansen, pastor at Coshocton Christian Tabernacle, 23891 Airport Road., Coshocton, said that churches must be continually open to what the next generation is doing.

“Society is always changing and transforming,” said Jansen. “The Gospel will never change, but the way it is viewed is always changing. You have to be open and get what the next generation is doing.”

Loos explained that part of the reason why many younger generations are not attending church is because they have been raised in a loveless society. They witness no healthy attachment to relationships and then attach themselves to destructive things. People need a connection on every level: spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

“We have to attach on every level or else the relationship won’t last,” said Loos. “It’s an unhealthy attachment. What our church intends to do is reach millennials on a spiritual level and they need to know that the answer to detachment issues in this world is to attach themselves to Jesus Christ.”

However, this isn’t the case with each person from the millennial generation and younger.

“I think sometimes, that generation gets a bad rep,” said Olinger. “They’re looked upon as not motivated and entitled. That generation seeks truth and purpose. They want a purpose to what they do, and there is no greater purpose than being an extension of Jesus. Every person is made in the image of God. Whether you’re a millennial or not, God looks at you with love.”

The millennial generation is also a very visual generation, and churches are starting to incorporate videos, lighting effects, and stage performances in the church to cater to the younger generation.

“When you’re bringing up a YouTube clip, it’s the same message that has been preached for 2,000 years, but you’re just relaying it in a different way,” said Jansen.

Nick Johnson, youth pastor at Coshocton Christian Tabernacle, said he has known people who have been saved through video messages.

“I knew one girl who gave her testimony in church one morning and she said that she was saved by watching a video message I showed in youth group,” said Johnson. “It was a video about Barabbas and that was the moment she gave herself to the Lord. Entertainment has to be done with an intention, but it is a way to connect with people.”

Many traditional people may find it offensive to worship God using digital technology, the internet, and social media, but it can be used to encourage millennials and the younger generation to join a church.

“They can watch it in the safety of their own home and make the choice to come on Sundays,” said Jansen.

The Coshocton Christian Tabernacle, along with many other churches in the area and United States, are using different styles of lighting, screens, and stream their church services live on social media to cater to millennials. People may find this disrespectful, but it’s another way to reach this generation.

“We can’t expect to reach the millennial generation unless you show up where they’re at,” said Loos. “We live stream every Sunday service. It’s good for the person who’s sick or who had to work, or good for the person on the street to see what we’re about before they come in. We’re building connection. They might not be here yet physically, but we’re building connection. There was a family once who was passing through Ohio and stopped at our church Sunday morning because they saw us on Facebook.”

Olinger said that people used to have to go to church to hear God’s word from a pastor, but that is changing.

“Now, you can log online and pick up 100 different messages in different styles,” he said. “Church is forced now to be a movement and a body of Christ, the hands and feet of Christ. It’s forcing churches to be what it was intended to be. The church is coming together, being a movement of people, connecting to God, connecting to other believers, and connecting to non-believers and connecting them to God.”

The atmosphere during church services also has an impact on reaching the younger generation.

“What we’ve noticed is Sunday mornings, when you change the environment, it makes it more comfortable to worship, more inviting,” said Johnson. “You can tell a difference in the congregational response.  Our generation as a whole, that’s what we’re comfortable with. As long as our heart is there and doing it to glorify God. Everything we do is to worship and encourage other people to worship.”

Each pastor agreed that there is a difference between a performance and an actual worship service.

“A good worship experience should engage you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” said Jansen. “It should be a complete experience. If your heart is thirsting for God, why wouldn’t your heart still be thirsting whether it’s a hymn you’re singing or something that someone wrote three weeks ago?”

Loos said that every generation will worship God differently, but as long as the heart is there, that’s what God sees.

“We are to worship the Lord in spirit and truth,” said Loos. “Worship is not so much about outward demonstration. It’s about the heart.”

Loos’ son, Malachi, said that people of all ages should be able to worship the Lord however they like without fear of being ridiculed.

“I think about David,” he said. “When the spirit of the Lord fell upon David, he danced through the street. But his wife mocked him because she thought he was drunk. I don’t think we should be afraid to worship however we see fit. The Bible says to praise God with loud cymbals and shouts.”

Jansen believes that this new way of worshiping God inside and outside of churches began many years ago and was a natural progression.

“I think there was a lot more openness in society, both good and bad, for change,” said Jansen. “There’s a real openness to new ideas and different ways of doing things. Things change so fast and there are so many rapid changes in technology. If any church was remotely open to new ideas even in the 1980s, to me, it was a natural progression to introduce technology. The Bible transcends all culture, all mediums. It doesn’t matter what’s in front of our Lord. He will use everything and anything for His glory and His purpose.”

Another difference in the church is that many millennials are now in charge of the ministry and are more open to change in the church and are bringing new ideas to the way people worship.

“Millennials bring energy, new ideas, and fresh insight,” said Loos. “They bring strength. They’re passionate. But I believe millennials hate religion. God’s intention was not to create a religion, but to produce a kingdom. Unfortunately, religion is manmade. Religion is what’s left over once the spirit leaves the movement. It’s the empty shell of the kingdom movement.”

However, each pastor agreed that whether you like the more upbeat music at church or the traditional hymns, it’s the heart that worships God.

“For me, church is not just worship on Sunday,” said Olinger. “Church is a group of people. The church is not about those traditions. There are traditional churches out there that are doing just great and on the other side, there are some modern churches out there just putting on a show. Traditions are fine, but it comes down to the heart, not about a certain style. Whether you’re at church or sitting around the dinner table with good friends having a biblical conversation, that’s church.”

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Category: Faith

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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