Week 69: "We have several younger people who attend our church regularly, but they don't seem interested in joining. What can we do to encourage younger church attendees to consider joining our church?"

Response 1: Josh Niles

It's pretty cool that you have young adults coming to your services regularly. There is no doubt that as your membership cherishes this natural desire for spiritual growth and nourishment within the community, it is bringing the community and the church together in a way that is really blessing everyone. It reminds me of how Jesus said, "if I be lifted up...will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). When we are lifting up Christ in our thought, folks really are drawn to that, and when a church is lifting up Christ-healing in their service, that is really what we are drawn to in church isn't it?

Checking our motive is always a good thing too, and we should let those motives be uplifted or baptized if need be. Be alert not to slip into thinking the church needs these young adults to ensure its future, to give a youthful appearance, or to maintain a future of financial stability. In other words, don't fall into the trap of thinking that the future of your church or Christian Science depends upon the youth. The future of your church and Christian Science has—and will continue—to rest on healing, and every one of us has our part in that mission right now. We can address the idea that young adults today are interested in spiritualization of thought but are skeptical of organization as we remember that each one of us hears the Father's call and is drawn to good. And we can get at the suggestion that serving church is just another obligation in already full schedules by being so on fire, ourselves, with what Mrs. Eddy calls this "greatest and holiest of all causes" (Miscellanous Writings 1833-1896, p. 177).

This might require us to look again at the focus of our church service and recommit to a focus on healing. All of us are drawn to healing and as that commitment is felt, any unnatural resistance to being a part of its movement melts away. We can keep cherishing our healing mission and be so grateful for everyone that is supporting it and being drawn to it. That focus and commitment to healing ensures that we will have everything we need to move forward each step of the way.

Response 2: Sabrina Stillwell

There's a great saying "think globally, act locally." Joining a branch church is doing just that—joining locally in a radical world-wide movement that is blessing the world—beginning in our own life and local church, embracing our community and the whole planet.

Of course, understanding more of God, man and Church through prayer, is the best place to start. Prayer can be a humble listening for God's view; an affirmation of God's reality; and denial of any false belief or limited thinking.

Here are some ideas you can humbly listen for as you pray:

  • fresh views of God and church and individual man
  • what draws any of us to join church?
  • a clearer understanding of God's purpose for church

And then by affirming God's truth we can:

  • recognize God's law of "adhesion, cohesion, and attraction" (Science and Health 124:20 and 293:13) is in operation, and God is bringing all of us together for His good
  • recognize the value of each other and church membership

In our prayer we can deny false beliefs and limitation:

  • about Church
  • any perceived resistance of younger people joining church
  • stereotypes, fears, limitations, based on age or perceived maturity

Some questions to ask ourselves:

  • Do we appreciate what younger people may bring to our collective experience of church?
  • How complicated are our requirements to joining church? and if need be, can we make the process easier? simpler?
  • Are we willing to take the time to get to know and mentor a younger member, without expecting them to do things just "how we've always done it?"

As we strive to get a clearer and expanded view of Church, it will bless us, and those attending our local branch. I know others will bring forward thoughtful ideas as we pray and talk about this. All of us have much to contribute.

This is one of the best venues in human experience in which to work out Jesus' two great commands—love God and love your neighbor as yourself. One aspect of church membership is to witness the child of God in our fellow beings. We can appreciate the distinct qualities each of us bring to this venue, this symphony we call church. This is the most important and radical movement on the planet!

  1. I am sure that many churches (not only CS churches)are facing this same issue today. I attend a small Episcopal church in my community and we don't even have a Sunday School to supply the church with new, young members. As I read the question, I could not help but think how many churches would love to have your "problem". Just to get young people into church today, let alone joining, would be considered quite an accomplishment.

    Josh Niles, in his response says, " Be alert not to slip into thinking the church needs these young adults to ensure its future, to give a youthful appearance, or to maintain a future of financial stability. In other words, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the future of your church or Christian Science depends upon the youth.

    Well, this is all very well, but I think that he is looking at the situation through "rosy coloured" metaphysical glasses! I have travelled throughout the country and have visited many CS branch churches. The young people are very conspicuous for their absence.

    I see what Josh and Sabrina are doing in their responses and really they have done it very well. They have provided an excellent metaphysical response to the question, but, at least for me, I think the problem is far from being effectively and practically addressed.

    The young people of today are "tuned into" a different dimension from what was considered to be effective one hundred years ago. Perhaps in 1910 the format of the CS service "packed them in", but, sadly, today I don't think too many of our "digitally savy" youth are going to sit in rapt attention through 6 long sections of reading from the "Books".

  2. I think the best thing to do is follow Christ's words: "Ask, and it shall be given to you!" Just ask the young folk if they want to join. Clearly, the kids are following Christ's words: "Seek, and you shall find." In most cases young people come to church because their parents/grandparents tell them to. I visited one Christian Science Church one Wednesday evening in a neighboring town and was surprised how young the Reader was. The Reader was a very handsome young man. And sure enough, he drew a lot of young attractive female counterparts in his same age group. I'm sure if he'd ask these young ladies to join, they'd sign up immediately. I found the readings quite good and wondered if he had used the digital Concordance to select fhe readings, although he read from the physical books. I find it difficult to listen to the online Wednesday Testimony meetings with the new hostess because I can't understand her accent, so it was helpful to hear such clear readings.

  3. Brad,
    I think we all have to start with the metaphysical and then we will be led to our own answer which will address the issue in our own branch church.

    I know I need to get a deeper understanding of what "Church" really means.

    I would like to address your comment on the young people "tuned into a different dimension" I know generally there are those who are turned off from church because of many reasons....whether the services being too dry, or I just heard, "I would never join a branch church because of all the judgment", or the services are too early on Sundays, or the music is too boring, etc...

    But then, I have a younger student, who is fairly new to CS and she loves the contemplative nature of our services. She loves being able to sit in church and listen to the ideas, and think about them. No one "translates" how she should take the Word. She has her own relationship to it.

    In my branch we also have a young man who brings his kindle in and reads along with the lesson. And we host casual social events (like pot-lucks, Christmas parties where we sing Christmas carols and have a potluck lunch, and we've done scouting awards ceremonies for our SS kids) all after church which has thrilled some younger attendees -- well, thrilled all.

    I don't know if its truly the format. I have attended San Juan Capistrano and it is lovely. But I think they did a LOT of metaphysical prep to get where they are today. It wasn't just changing the format. It was praying diligently for a fresh way to look at church,....and then moving where the Spirit led. I'm sure they've tried some different things which didn't produce the results they were expecting, and so they changed it up.

    I am currently out of my home state, and have been visiting other churches in an area I lived in 30 years ago, and they are smaller -- lovely people but emptier buildings, and it came to me, maybe what we really need to handle is resistence to CS, to the Comforter, to God. If maybe we handled that better as individuals and church members, maybe we wouldn't see so much decline, and young and old would be attracted to the truth of their being, of the universe.... Kind of like that old article "The Displacement of Dan by Mannassa" -- it talks of a horse, a rider, and a snake... The snake scares the horse, the horse bucks the rider off, the rider beats the horse, but it was the snake the whole time.

  4. We know allof us that the young are our nursery opf our churches.I share my own experience in my family. Wher I started study Christian Science I had the problem with my uife, because before in past we had the habit to drink together whe we had our meal. But since I started study Christian I let drink beer.She said to me with your new church I say to you that we can divorce. Since she said this word one idea came to me. Truth is contagious and chronique. i started let one herald in french on table and she started read it. Now she our solist and with class primaryu instuction.~We can see in II Chroniques p 20:17 and S.H page 332:9-15 Christ..
    We than HimGod for all.

  5. Sabrina mentioned mentoring a young person... I came into Christian Science at age 19 so I had only a year of Sunday school. My teacher became a good friend and asked me to lunch once a week for a couple of years in what turned out to be an invaluable mentoring in my formative first years in this church. She answered my every dumb question and unfailingly supported my growth and understanding of my reflection of perfect, divine Mind. That foundation has served me so well over the 45+ years since those 2-3 hour sessions ended. I was just starting to go to college--the first in my generation in the family to get a higher education--so that insistence that I could express my natural intelligence at the highest level, raised me from a very mediocre high school student to an honors student by the time I completed my second graduate degree. Now, I mentor many young people, sometimes within the church and sometimes as a university faculty member. From my point of view, that early mentoring made all the difference...so go for it! The experience can be transformational.

  6. I agree with Les. There is nothing wrong with simply asking them to join. I know of a church that recently closed with about 10-15 members. There were usually about 20-25 people at their Sunday services. But many were not members. After the church closed. One of the non-member attendees said if he had known they needed more people to fill some of the key positions in the church work, he would have joined. No one had asked him. Sometimes we try to be so overly respectful of people's privacy or right to "work things out in their own way" that we don't take a simple little step like saying, "We would love to have you join our church family." Or something like that.

    I think young people today are looking to make a difference in the world and the community. If they see a branch church just serving its own members and not really making a concrete contribution to the community, it doesn't appeal to them.

    It is not so much about the church service format (although that can be an issue). Are we really healing in the community? Do we have a bigger goal than just perpetuating our own institution?

    If attendees, young or old--who cares, see a church that is alive with healing, it will not matter what the order of service is. We all have to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

  7. I would like to offer a corrected English version of Antonio's text, since I think what he says is very valuable, and I want to make sure people can understand it. Here is what I believe he is saying:

    "We all know that the young are the nursery of our churches. I would like to share my own experience in my family. When I started studying Christian Science, I had a problem with my wife, because in the past we had a habit of drinking together when we had our meals. But when I started studying Christian Science I stopped drinking beer. She said to me, 'Because you are in this new church, I want a divorce.' Since she said this word, one idea came to me. Truth is contagious and chronique. I started to leave a Herald in French on the table and she started to read it. Now she is our soloist and has taken Primary class instruction in Christian Science .~We can see in II Chronicles 20:17 and Science and Health page 332:9-15: 'Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness. The Christ is incorporeal, spiritual, --yea, the divine image and likeness, dispelling the illusions of the senses; the Way, the Truth, and the Life, healing the sick and casting out evils, destroying sin, disease, and death.'
    We thank God for all.

  8. I also think it is powerful to notice young people's talents and ask them to contribute at church. If they are artists, hang their work in the church foyer or Sunday School. If they are musicians, have them play a hymn. If they are outgoing and love to meet new people, ask them to sit with you in the Christian Science booth at a book fair or some community event. I grew up in Christian Science and always felt at home in the Sunday School and then the church, partly because I played the piano in Sunday School and felt needed. No matter the age, everyone needs to feel that what they have to offer is valuable and important and is needed in their church.

  9. Just a thought: instead of focusing on joining, why not just ask them to help out? We have non-members who happily help with various tasks when asked to. They get to know others and get involved. Sometimes this leads to their joining. At the least, they feel wanted and useful.

  10. I especially appreciate Josh's response. It's the love, intelligence and healing of Christian Science expressed which attracts. I remember finding it through a neighbor's sharing as a young teen and drinking it in. Later, it seemed like it would be ungrateful not to join and help where I could, such as in Sunday School. Little did I realize all the wonderful lessons I would learn, spilling into all arenas.

  11. I think churches need to ask themselves if these young people join, will it be their church too, or do we just want them to join and do what we want them to? Are we willing to listen and embrace new ideas that youth brings or do we just want them to join and to do things they way we've always done them....even if those ways don't work anymore? If a church can't / won't embrace freshness in thought and action, then why would a young person want to join? I say that because I've seen young people with energy and great ideas being beaten down and in some cases driven away by an entrenched mentality of, "That's not how we do things around here."

  12. I feel that there should be activities that entice the youths to join us. Most of them do not believe in our old conservative approach to christianity but, believe in progressive and reformist approaches eg, use of music, dance, drama, games and; camping for youth activities, to propel the Lord's word. I feel the later approach would entice them to join us.
    Good luck Brethrens in Christ.
    Franci Mugweri in Botswana.

  13. Get them involved. Put them on committees with responsibility--that their opinions count, are considered, are put into effect (whenever possible). Ownership is a powerful motivator. Let them know it is their church, their Sunday school. Let them tell the on-going SS committee (on which they are active members) how it can improve SS instruction--make it more meaningful to young people (primarily visitors as well as for themselves). Young people are vital, active members, and their opinions count, are considered, are valued, are implemented.

    Technology is usually a young person's area of expertise. And, it has great appeal. Let them bring their technology (iPad, laptop, iPhone--or equivalent) and together (youth and adults), learn about it and see how it can become an active tool in SS study, communications, learning. Keep brainstorming with those you want to reach being actively involved in the process.

  14. To me the answer to having more young people to attend and become members of a C/S Church is simply to show what C/S stands for. It is there to bring back the understanding of how prayer alone can heal illnesses, heal relationship problems, keep crime in check, not only in the community, but outside of it as well. Young seekers of truth want to hear that, and if they see it being demonstrated, they will come and join.

  15. This is a powerful question, and one I've given serious attention to for years. All the answers are wonderful, and thank you all.

    I went to a tiny little CS church in Idaho growing up - 9:30 Sunday School and then often to 11:00 church. Not many in the Sunday School and a small church membership, but, WOW were they fabulous people. From a very young age I clearly remember the feelings I had about attending and learning. And, these were not childish, bored or rebellious feelings. These were feelings of profound love of Truth, a rich sense of grasping the healing power of God, and commitment to Christian Science beyond question.

    My children taught me early on that they were not "children" in the mortal sense, but God's mature ideas. I witnessed right away that they thought deeply about, grasped and naturally loved the Truth. When our son was 2 and on my lap, he looked up and sweetly said: "Read the Lesson, mom." Our daughter was the same way. We all, including their Dad, prayed together every day. When they were teens one was working out a physical problem (which was healed) and we all sat on my bed praying with Concordance and books. When we were done our son said, "can we do this every night?"

    All children come with a natural craving for reality. Why do kids rebel? Because, the mortal dream world feeds them superficiality. They are not being nurtured and given credit for the wonderful thinkers and healers they are. I'm always praying about how to be a "fisher of men" (or youth) without seeming self righteous. I'm convinced the only way to do this is to truly see that all children and young adults are full of truth already. This kind of thinking basks in their present light. They will feel this respect and be guided to live their light, which includes unselfishly being in church.

    Another tiny thing. We are taught there is no age. Do we only take to heart some truths? Maybe it would help our youth if not so much emphasis was placed on birthdays, ours or theirs.

    So, I guess I'd answer, don't ever ever underestimate children and young adults. Don't limit their spiritual individuality or trivialize their human experience and purpose. As church members, love love love those Sunday School kids and the youth in your community. Pay attention to them, pray for them, see them correctly, make them know it is THEIR church, have extra activities for them, go the extra mile. And, without fail, never ever underestimate their present spiritual consciousness.

  16. To encourage younger church attendees to consider joining your church, the young person should have a respect for the Manual, the Bible, and Mrs. Eddy and her writings, from what I understand. I find Christian Science very unconventional. I don't think any one is expected to know it all. Have you shared your church's by-laws? or invited them to a business meeting and metaphysical meeting? I understand the Mother Church announces in the branch churches the deadline for membership application in the Mother Church. How effective is this? If it is, do something like this for your branch church, maybe twice a year. Also, let people know the benefits and privileges of membership. A dear Christian Science friend has shared with me her access to JSH-online. In it, I have found articles talking about the benefits and privileges of church membership from the early publications. I think you need to talk up what you can get from branch membership to the young attendees to encourage them to join. To me business and metaphysics should go hand-in-hand, so be sure to invite them to these meetings.

  17. I think Josh hit the nail on its head (German saying). New attractive church auditoriums, nice Sunday schools etc. are wonderful attractions - but there is nothing but healing! Healing was driving original Christianity during the first centuries. Healing made people flock to Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science. If you heal, you can have any church building or any order of services or any number of sections in the lesson. Here are to quotes from Mrs. Eddy's letters published in the Journal:
    June 1936:
    „From a letter dated 1903.
    Unless we have better healers, and more of this work than any other is done, our Cause will not stand and having done all stand. Demonstration is the whole of Christian Science, nothing else proves it, nothing else will save it and continue it with us. God has said this—and Christ Jesus has proved it.“

    The Journal of July 1936 quotes from a letter of Mrs. Eddy of 1897

    „Remember, that the power to heal is gained through peace, wisdom, love, dominion over ourselves, and good will toward men. You possess these graces of Spirit, or Christ power, only by loving God, good, supremely. After this, cometh the recognition of but one Mind, which enables you to know there is no power or presence that can resist good, or can prevent your prayers being effectual. While you remain in this attitude of mind you are obedient to the Principle of your being, and naught can hinder your healing the sick and the sinner.“

    Let us do it!

  18. This is such a helpful discussion. Highlights for me are No. 14 where Tobias A. Weissman has what seems the ideal statement in modern language for 'Necessary Notices' given by a First Reader, as to the purpose for which our church has been founded:

    As for Susan Gill's No. 15: wow! - that really strikes a chord for me. Thank you for sharing all that you have learned - no wonder Christ Jesus wanted the children to be allowed to come to him, and how aptly our Leader, Mrs. Eddy, puts the reason: "Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right." (S&H 236:28-29)

  19. I work to know the difference between Church Activity and Church Service. All the Sunday School can participate at all levels in Church Activity. House keeping; building maintenance; community service; committee work of all kinds. It often surprises Church Members when a School Student obtains an outstanding award from school or a youth organization and yet that student has never been asked to perform service with the membership. Then when they are 12 to 20 they will be happy to go to the "big room" on Sunday and work with you!!!

  20. Jesus was really bold. He didn't just pray to have followers, he told them to come follow him. It's wasn't just prayer, it was the fruitage of prayer that attracted the disciples and made them want to go and do likewise. If the fruitage is showing forth, you will have followers.

  21. thanks very much brad for your honest comment, we do need young people to join our branch churches,and yes it is a commitment but a rewarding one if taken up.
    To say that we don't need to pass down to the following
    generation of young healers about c.s or that we don't need them to exist or to ensure the church's future I think is incorrect, they need c.s. more than ever as a young & up coming healers..we all need it!
    I realise we also need to approach it from a metaphysical point too, but also get a bit real with the situation & get down and pray as if it is urgent and needs attention, all these workshops and summits are really great, but what about the simple sunday service we as membership have really tryed to encourage young people to attend our services and we have altered the service to suit a youthful audience they just don't seem intrested unless it has some sort of workshop event or extra activity or refreshments after the service there always has be to be extra and the service it's self is good enough.Jesus did'nt need any internet service or face book account to aid him in preaching the gospel,they just went to hear what he had to say.
    from what i read in the bible that seemed to work..

  22. In my experience, one of the things that seems missing from the process is asking. After many years of teaching Sunday School and working with young people, I'm still amazed at how we dance around the question and fail to ask young people to join our branch churches. Is it that simple? Yes and no. When I've asked young people to join church, it is a question of identification. It goes along with the questions, Who am I... Why am I here... What am I to do? These ideas are central to understanding man as God's image and likeness, naturally drawn to good, desiring to glorify God and have real purpose, experience joy, understand practical spirituality.

    Thus, it is natural for young or older (age doesn't matter) students of Christian Science to want to identify with the church that lifts up these ideas to the community. Joining church is a move that is made out of deep gratitude for the healing truth we've experienced.

    If there seems to be resistance in your branch church to readily asking young people to join, then perhaps there are some very traditional ideas about how one must behave to be a Christian Scientist. It could be a belief that the older members know something that these students of Christian Science don't. Well, my understanding is that as we see each one reflecting the full measure of good, as fully God's children, then we will welcome new members without reservation. And we will expose any barriers that may make it more difficult or confusing for new students of Christian Science to join our churches.