Kids like Jesus, but not his followers

Why are kids disappearing from churches? This is the question that Dan Kimball raises in his new book, They Like Jesus, But Not the Church: insights from emerging generations. He gives several reasons gained from his own experience of growing up outside the church, and now as a pastor of an emerging church, from those inside and outside his congregation.

He identifies six common misperceptions of the church and I won’t list them here – read the book! I think that he has identified significant areas – he has gained theses insights from getting out and getting engaged in dialogue with non-Christians.

One of the antidotes he suggests is that we get into relationships with non-Christians. He wonders where our sense of urgency is on this issue. He challenges us through this picture:

It’s as if we have all fallen off a ship, and some of us, through God’s grace, found a lifeboat, but instead of helping others get out of the water, we ignore their screams. We don’t want to get in the cold water, and so we sit around, happy and warm, listening to our CD’s on our iPods and complaining that people outside the boat are making too much noise. Instead, we should be desperately paddling around trying to help others into the boat, where they too can experience warmth, community, and safety.

I was personally challenged by his questions on the subject:

  1. Am I numb or neutral toward people outside the church?
  2. Do I intercede daily for people outside the church?
  3. Who am I praying for now who is not a Christian?
  4. When’s the last time I had coffee or dinner or gone to a movie and hung out with someone who is not a Christian?

I think this is particularly a challenge for those of us working in Christian institutions – when do we find the time for connecting with others in our community who are not Christians? When we do connect are we able to develop the kinds of trust in our relationships so that there is mutual listening, sharing, and opportunities to discuss matters of faith?

Last week I suggested that we get our kids out and using what they are learning. I believe that we need to be equipping them earlier with apologetics as they are intersecting more often with other kids through soccer leagues, clubs, ballet, and a host of other activities. It seems that this could be a good topic for parents, church and school to discuss and plan for. How could we model and share with our students about the relationships that we have with non-Christians? What would they learn from how we engage with them and share our faith?


Filed under book, kids/culture

4 responses to “Kids like Jesus, but not his followers

  1. Bob Moore

    I think a healthy dose of Exiles, a book by Michael Frost on living missionally in a post-Christian culture might help kids see that there is more to the Christian life than going to church on Sundays, and Cadets on Wednesdays, and Christian school throughout the week.

  2. Stan Koster

    This reminds me of a paperback recently published from Willow Creek entitled “Reveal” which was a three-year study of their church and six others on the matter of spiritual growth. While this publication focuses on the adult community it speaks to the issue of why some of the most spiritually mature persons are also the most dissatisfied with the church. It sound like that both of these publications can inform us about what we might do differently and better in being the church.


    I was reading a forward from a friend who was sharing the a Christianity Today article link about some developments at Willow Creek and I was reminded of two things: Continual prayer for spiritual relationships … and also a reminder to myself to “self feed.”

    Here is just a bit of self reflection by Willow Creek in the large article:

    “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

    In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.”

  4. Carole Barber

    Developing relationships can happen when students are doing service based learning. Our schools can foster this desire in students by deliberately writing into the curriculum activites and service projects for even the youngest students who will then go out into the community and make a difference. Children who participate in this are developing relationships and being a blessing to others but in turn receive a blessing in their own lives because they are serving Jesus.

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