I’ve been watching a few conversations develop online and thought I’d comment on one of them.
Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight was looking at the subject of “EGens”: some recent research from the US (see his post post for the links to relevant articles) argues that the current generation of 18-30 year olds threatens the future of the church. He highlights 4 social forces which it is argued will effect this generations decision to attend church.
The four social forces are
1) A growth in higher education, which most if not all will take up
2) Delay of marriage (in the US the average for a male is 28)
3) A changing economy, no jobs for life, many career/job changes
4) Parents extending support to children for longer
These, it is argued will lead to a fall off in church attendance (see the articles for the explanation as to why, but they include: an unstable family life, EGens missing out on church for 15-20yrs, “sexual serial monogamy”).
Yet as I read the articles I didn’t get a feeling of aha, or a sudden sense of seeing the light. Instead I kept thinking, “what’s new about this?” Because these are the social contexts that I’ve grown up in here in western Europe... (in fact here in the UK- as I blogged on my old blog several years ago- we are even further down this path, the average age for marriage is 32 and rising, more than 50% children are born out of wedlock, etc...)
When I went back to the Scot McKnight's blog I saw several others from Europe make the same point.
So maybe Americans shouldn’t look across the pond and sneer (the cathedrals of Europe are “so inspired... so grand... so empty..."), instead maybe they should eat humble pie, and instead of trying to export church growth programs, they should be coming here to try and learn from us in Europe. Maybe its time for a reverse, instead of all the Europeans going to see Willow Creek, Saddleback, etc, Americans should come here and see Holy Joes, Grace, Ikon, Greenbelt, etc...
(and whilst they’re here we’ll also use our history to show them the error of their ways when it comes to church and state!)