Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a bridge. Well, let me explain that. When it comes to age demographics there are Generation X and Millennials. Millennials are usually anyone who graduated 2000 and beyond. Gen Xers are those who were born 1980 or before. Simple enough. This isn't a hard line. Depending on where you live or your social status, how your demographic looks might be different. I have seen age demography charts where what I just shared is moved a few years in one direction. Now, I was born in 1981 and graduated in 1999. I will let you think that one through. If there is one birth year left off the charts it is 1981. Even when the groupings are shifted 1981 is not included in either the Millennial or Gen Xer group. I have decided this means I am a bridge. I am allowed to be either a Generation Xer or a Millennial, depending on my mood and need. I try to be true to this true knowledge and be aware I have the ability to 'bridge the gap' so to speak.
So, here it is. Since my ministry is here, at Fig Tree, I have spent many Sundays visiting local congregations. I enjoy taking it all in and keeping track of what works and what doesn't. This is a gift. There are quiet a few ministers who would love to see what other churches are doing. I don't take that opportunity lightly. When I first started this exploration I did it by myself, or only with my son, who was five at the time. With just myself or with my son, I found the experience disconnected. I kept turning to how we were not being greeted,or how the congregation seemed anti-social. I marked it as part of the problem with the overall church. It seemed obvious to me. Now, my husband and our 18 months old daughter comes with us.
Because my husband is a really shy person, I have decided to return to some of the anti-social churches I had previously visited. To my surprise, now for the third time in a row, a church that was previously anti-social had become overly social. So much so, I believe I blacked out as one congregant insisted on hugging, from what I understand, four times in a row. (I honestly don't remember. The event made me feel so out of my element.) After brainstorming the events it hit us: The first time I looked like a single mother, the second time we looked like the perfect family.
Perhaps your congregation is adding or updating a website. Perhaps your congregation has begun a Facebook account. Maybe your minister has a blog/vlog. It doesn't matter. As a bridge who has become the outsider looking in: God doesn't have a specific demographic for your congregation. I should have been treated the same way whether I was coming with only my son or coming with my whole family. The fact that I have seen a change in attitude in three congregations now shows this is more than an individual church problem.
Clearly I am not talking to the 'congregants' of Fig Tree. It is my hope this makes its way to the ministers and leaders of the physical congregations out there. They are the ones who need to hear these words. Do you want to know why your congregation looks 30 years older than the demographic of your neighborhood you are serving in? Perhaps you are unknowingly scaring away your future congregants because you are extreme with your guests. The reason the mega-church across the street is getting all the Millennials and Gen Xers is because it appears it is only the mega-churches now that a younger person/family can feel comfortable when they first walk into the door. A Mega-Church doesn't make assumptions about a person/family based on first impressions. A Mega-Church doesn't reek of desperation or turn cold shoulders based on what a person or family might initially look like. They are too big for that.
The truth is in the cross. Growth happens in our willingness to die; to take up our cross. We must simply become Christians instead of congregants. Unless we are genuine instead of picky or desperate, we deserve our death. But, death is what God asked of us. We must die to be born again. It is not good enough to change our format when we have to change our lives. As a bridge, I have grown up with really good advertising and 24 hour media coverage. We watch Youtube and are drawn to people being real and authentic My demographic(s) don't want a cool website, we want a real experience. My demographic(s) don't want a church with a Twitter account, we want relationship. And, my demographic(s) don't want a congregation who will turn away the single mother while wooing the young family of four. My demographic(s) just want to be part of a group who know what the word 'love' means and walks the wa