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30 August 2013

What puts young people off church?

What puts young people off church?

You lost me…The UK Church is losing young people. Under-30s who attend church are in a tiny minority, making them ananomaly among their friends. The Evangelical Alliance's threads online collective, launched last year, has been seeking to re-ignite vibrant faith among young people – to show that the Christian faith has something to say about all areas of our lives. In a departure from our usual Leaders Questions feature, we asked young people what puts their peers off church and what the Church needs to do to attract their friends…

Joe Ware, 30, church & campaigns journalist, Christian Aid
The Church needs to have a stronger voice on issues of social justice. Many young people are passionate about tackling poverty and injustice yet are disillusioned with politicians. There is a great opportunity for the Church to be a radical voice for the 'widows and orphans' of our day in the tradition of William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King. Too often we dwell on the entrenched arguments that dominate the current religious agenda and turn off young people. A unifying vision to practically transform the world for the better would be a powerful witness and engage young people more.

Eleanor Ward, 15, Bless Community Church
Churches all have similar routines, whether you start at 10am, or 6pm, on a Sunday. There will most likely be worship and a 'talk' of some kind. Don't get me wrong, the worship is great and that's not the area that is not engaging. But in this day and age people of my age just want to do things that interest them. Quite a lot of preaches are strictly biblical and not necessarily aimed at youth. If preachers included anecdotes, maybe video clips or props, and made more of an effort to shape their talks to interest and engage youth as well as the older generations, then so many more of my friends would be going to church.

Ruth Garner, 29, co-ordinator & writer at threadsuk.com
Being a 20-something churchgoer can be hugely challenging. No longer part of the youth or student ministries,we're left to fend for ourselves with the grown-ups. (When in reality we're still floundering around, trying to carveout our identity and work out where life is leading us.) But 20-somethings are passionate about so many things:God, social justice, hospitality and mission, to name a few. Churches have the amazing opportunity to tap intothese passions, as we seek to find our place, by letting us know our voice is valid, heard and appreciated.

Seb Turner, 15, HTB st Paul's Onslow Square, Westminster Community Church
I think the answer is simple: the average church is not a pleasant place to be for the average teenager, pews andchairs full of adults giving odd looks during worship, the preacher that is either inaccessible or patronising andthe guy singing cliché songs on an acoustic guitar. Of course this varies from church to church and depending onthe denomination but if each church could at least try to provide an environment that younger people can fit into I believe many more teenagers would be gong to church.

Alexandra Khan, 27, digital marketer for Stewardship
Nothing turns me off more than a church that tries too hard. We all know the type: the worship is a rock concert,the preach includes hashtags and six punchy points, and the leadership team look like movie stars. It's over inexactly an hour and a half, because they've got six other services to fit in. It's like the McDonald's of churches. I think that in the struggle to 'be relevant' to our generation, some churches have forgotten that Jesus is the most relevant message of all. Church should be intimate and messy sometimes.

Sheila Mburu, 24, reformed pessimist , reluctant scientist and proud Christian
The song Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns asks: "Are we happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples with walls around our weakness to hide away our pain?" In that one sentence, therein lies what I believeto be the biggest turn-off regarding the Church. Many churches seem to perpetuate the notion that Christiansshould portray a veneer of perfection and hide away any weaknesses, imperfections or brokenness. Too manychurches have stopped being a home for the broken. No one wants to cut themselves on the messy pieces ofanother person's broken life. We've turned church into a stained glass masquerade…

Ruth Dickinson, 31, editor , Christianity magazine
I genuinely think it's the fact that most church still happens at 10.30am on a Sunday morning. If you're living theslightly chaotic life of your average 25-year-old, you're just not available for respectable interaction of any sortat that time. It's probably less of a problem as you get into your 30s, but by that time, you're more likely to haveestablished a pattern of life and if you haven't worked church into it by then, it's harder to start. It really irritatesme actually – 10.30am might work for the average ageing church congregation, but it really isn't attractive for therest of the population. Will we respond by inconveniencing ourselves and changing the time, or expecting thosewe want to reach to conform to a pattern of life which doesn't work for them?

Anthony Ogunbowale -Thomas, chief dreamer and doer at new funding platform Goodfruit
A lack of faith and support in the face of dreams and faith is very disheartening. No one is perfect and no one has perfect faith, but when those in our generation show passion, aptitude, action and risk-taking we should encourage, not discourage, them. Are we fully investing in this generation? Has our love for thinking, words and doctrine hindered our faith and action? Do you really believe in this generation? Let us grow this generation not stifle it. While holding onto truth let us be challenged by the faith, calling and energy of this generation. We can raise this generation by practically supporting it to love, believe, have courage and do.

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