What I’ve Learned From Meeting With People

Over the last month, Allyssa and I have met with around 30 people one-on-one to talk about the new church we are launching in Grandview. Each time we ask them a variation of this question: What do you think a great church in this community would look like? (Thanks David Hood for introducing me to this question… it’s a good one!)

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(One of the places we’ve met a lot of people at is Staufs Coffee Roasters in Grandview. Here’s a photo courtesy of readtrippers.com. We recommend it.)

Each time we’ve gotten some great answers, but a couple of themes have begun to show through. In fact, we keep hearing a lot of the same things: over and over and over again. So I figured it might be worth sharing. 

Many of the people we’re talking to are under the age of 30, which means they are the allusive millennial population that seems to be departing from church. What I’ve found through our conversations is that many have visited churches, often more than once. Many want to go to church. Many are hungry for a church, but don’t seem to be connecting anywhere. 

Now, it’s hard, and at times dangerous, to summarize numerous conversations into broad generalities, so I tread with caution. I’m only sharing these because they really have come up over and over again by different people, from different social networks, and connections. And I found them truly insightful, and not that original. So with that disclaimer, here’s what I’m hearing: 

1. Teaching: There is a hunger for robust, thought-provoking, challenging teaching. There seems to be a lack of interest in seeker-friendly, shallow messages. There is a hunger to understand the bible, and have it explained. The people we are talking to want to learn, to be challenged, and to leave with things to think about, work on, and wrestle with. They don’t want easy answers. Faith is complicated, and we need to be honest about that. 

2. Worship: There is a hunger for high-quality music, that is a balance between hymns and contemporary worship, but isn’t a show. There seems to be a lack of interest in the rock-n-roll light show, (and nothing is being said about traditional worship). There’s a hunger for good worship music, but done in a humble, sensible way. I would say that people aren’t talking about how they want good music as much as they are talking about how they aren’t really interested in the big light show.  

3. Community: There is a hunger for community. There’s a lack of interest in showing up, watching the show, and then going home without meeting anyone.  There seems to be a real hunger for vulnerability, accountability, and connection. What people seem to want is the kind of community that is often only possible on the other side of conflict, confrontation, intimacy, and reconciliation. Of course, this kind of community is hard, and is only possible if the leadership is both teaching it and modeling it. Which means the teaching needs to be authentic and challenging, bringing us back to #1.

I keep hearing these things over and over and over again: good teaching, worship that isn’t a show, and community. Teaching, worship, community. Over and over again—often from young people looking for a church. 

It might be the people I’m talking to, or it might represent something bigger—either way, I find it encouraging because honestly, these are the things I’m looking for too. I mean, I would add a call to social justice and mission to this list, but it’s a good start. And I think in some ways, social justice and mission are included in this list, if only subtly.  People want robust, challenging teaching because they know they should be living a life different than the one they currently are. They know they should be engaged in things like mission and outreach, but can’t seem to find the motivation. 

Let me speak for myself: I want to be challenged. I want to belong to a church that pushes me to live more and more like Jesus. I need theological, challenging messages, and worship, and authentic community because without those things, my life might become centered around me. And while that’s the tendency for us all, it’s not what any of us want. 

I want to be challenged. I’m not looking for something seeker-friendly. I’m looking for something that will transform my life, so I can be used by God to transform the world. And that sounds rather exciting. 

What about you?

What do you think a great church in your community would look like?

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Learn more about Central City Church at www.centralcity.co


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