OEC Interview #9: A Cookie-Cutter Church

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series! Tonight I’m happy to share with you another interview with a Millennial. Because of the personal questions I’ve asked, I’m keeping all the interviewees anonymous. This interview comes from a 25 year old Communications Coordinator who has all of my respect for the beauty that she produces in this world. She consistently reminds me that gratitude sustains us in this world of scarcity. I hope you benefit from her perspective as much as I did!

Stain Glass

Did you grow up regularly attending a church?

Yes, my parents have always faithfully attended church. We were there on Sundays and Wednesdays, and I participated in most all of the programming for children and youth.

Are you currently actively attending a church?

Yes, I am. I joined a new church about three years ago during my last year of college, and recently I’ve become more active, taking on some leadership responsibilities.

What is your motivation for attending/ not attending?

Because I grew up with the tradition, attending is very comfortable to me. My motivation throughout the years has changed from pleasing my parents, appeasing God, and doing what’s considered right to seeking a welcoming community of (at least somewhat) like-minded people. Human relationships are my main motivation for attending these days.

If you have one, tell me about your church experience (the good, bad, and neutral).

I’d say my church experience has been a little diverse, at least in some ways. As a child, my experience was more about my family and learning the right way to live. I had a few friends at church, but I didn’t find as much community there as I did in school. Many times I felt like an outsider. I was very devout, quiet, and reserved, and it seemed that other kids and most leaders didn’t quite understand what to do with introversion. I had the best time at church when I was performing in the youth choir. During college, I visited a non-denominational church some with my friends. I enjoyed the services, but I didn’t invest in getting to know anyone. When I realized that, by all counts, the label homosexual applied to me and then started the process of coming out, I wondered how people at the non-denominational church would react, were we to get to know each other better. Instead of risking it, I started visiting a progressive church in the area that a couple of friends had previously invited me to. There I found a fully welcoming and affirming community, and, unlike the congregation of my youth, a true understanding and celebration of introversion, as well as the ability to freely explore questions and doubts.

What is the purpose of the church?

Ideally, to foster community that encourages and equips people to approach the questions of life.

Feel pressure to attend church?

Mostly I don’t feel pressure. When I do, it’s out of obligation because of the aforementioned leadership responsibilities.

In 1-3 sentences, how do you perceive Christians? (i.e. loving, generous, anti-gay, fundamentalists, too political, etc.)

I struggle with this question because on one hand I’m skeptical of generalizations. Christians are a diverse group of humans. But I also understand that the diversity of a group tends to get lost in our minds, especially when the group gets presented or tries to present themselves as homogenous. My perception of Christians is formed by personal encounters with other Christians, remembering my own former views, and messages in media.

I’ve encountered Christians who I perceive as very encouraging and filled with hope for the future.

I’ve also encountered Christians who I perceive as fearful, arrogant, immature, and out of touch with reality.

Sometimes I encounter all of these perceptions in the same person or group of people.

In October 2012, a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that thirty percent of Millennials (age 18-31) identify as having no religious affiliation. Does this surprise you?

It doesn’t really surprise me, and I’m not sure of the significance or implications of this information.

Fifty years down the road, do you anticipate significant growth in the church or significant decline? Why?

I haven’t thought much about it one way or the other. (I’m not very good with projections into the future.) I feel I need to be more informed to adequately answer this one.

What is your motivation for attending church? Feel free to comment below.

This post is the fifteenth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards, Spirituality v. Religion: OEC Interview #7, When John Speaks: OEC Guestpost #2, Our Emptying Yesteryear Church, OEC Interview #8: A Lost Generation

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