Do You See Them? A New Paradigm of Family

October 24th, 2013

Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the door and, wait . . . Where are all the people? The above is from a cute nursery ditty many of us grew up quoting, but how many of us ever realized it would one day come true? Unfortunately, churches all across America are closing their doors. “Where are all the people?”

Most of us realize we can’t do church like it was done back in the fifties and sixties. But how many of you realize you can’t do church like it was done just twenty years ago? How about ten years ago?

Our world is changing rapidly. With the advent of many new technologies, connecting with the people in our communities should be easier. Older people are living longer and babies continue to be born daily. With better health care and new advances in medicine, children who would have died years ago are surviving. In the United States, immigrants are arriving at staggering rates. And yet our church attendance in America is declining even though our population is continuing to rise.

Technology is changing our world and impacting our churches. There is another reason, a hidden and almost secret reason, churches are not growing. That reason is congregations not being fully aware of the kinds of families living in their communities and surrounding their churches. When was the last time you looked out the windows and doors of your church?

Outside the Walls of Your Church

View your community carefully through a new lens, because most communities will include the following family structures:

  • Single-parent families (nationally approximately 33 percent of children live in single-parent families)
  • Blended families
  • Intergenerational families and boomerang families
  • Grandparents parenting again, with some parenting second and third generations (approximately 15 percent of children are now being raised by grandparents)
  • Boomer families (a huge population of unchurched people waiting to be asked to attend church)
  • Singles (today there are more single than married people in the U.S.)
  • Culturally diverse families
  • Co-habitating families (a growing trend)

Many of us get so caught up in “ministry” in the church that we forget to minister to those outside our church walls. However, if we want the church to survive and impact the kingdom we are going to have to change the way we do ministry. Change doesn’t come easily, but tell me where in the Bible does it say doing church is easy?

There Are Many Issues Creeping into Society Today

I believe one of the big issues impacting families in our world today started back in the 1970s, when divorce headed like a speeding bullet straight toward the families of America. This bullet tore into families, shattering them to pieces and leaving serious open wounds.

We were told that the children were resilient. The children would survive. But we weren’t told at what cost the children would survive. Now the paradigm for schools and churches is children of divorce and children with never-married parents. It may be that many of your church members are second-generation children who grew up with divorced parents.

Society in general and churches in particular don’t want to admit this shift to what is now considered the new normal for our nation’s youngest population; nevertheless, the breakdown of marriages continues to negatively impact our society. As the children of yesterday become the adults of today, the breakup of their once-intact family is still haunting them.

What Do We Do Now?

If we want to build our church membership today and if we want to preserve the church of the future, we need to look at what kinds of families live in our communities and where they are.

  • It is not about programs or gimmicks.
  • It is about families.
  • It is about relationships.
  • It is about reaching out and sharing the love of Christ with a new and different generation in a culturally diverse world.

In order to continue to glorify God’s bride, the church, all churches must step up and regroup, rethink, retry, and search our hearts to find what God wants us to do.

  • Churches can be resilient if reliance on the Lord is maintained.
  • Churches can survive when they bow the knee in prayer.
  • Churches can and will move forward in the future when trends are evaluated and solution strategies are developed.

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

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