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8 ways to keep people out of church

8 ways to keep people out of church

Thinking Anglicans highlights the blog Missional Musings

One of the first books I read when I started doing some part-time study at Durham University three years ago was Don Tapscott’s Grown up digital (New York: McGraw Hill, 2009). For some reason I keep coming back to it. Perhaps that’s because, like some Old Testament prophet, he seems to be bellowing at the cloth-eared people of God, about something that should be like… DUH!

And that’s ironic, because Tapscott, as far as I know, isn’t all that interested in the church. He engaged on a $4m research project, ‘The Net Generation: a Strategic Investigation’, with over seven thousand ‘net geners’ (approximately 12-30 year olds), and comparative samples of those aged 30-41 and 42-62, in twelve countries, including the U.K. He gives some strong clues as to what attracts and equally what repels Net Geners or Generation Y.


The last thing on your Christmas list is a church council full of 27 year old rebels. So if you want to make sure you keep young adults well away, simply apply these eight principles.

Don’t be tempted to offer variety. Young adults value freedom and freedom of choice, so beware of their calls for a range of worship styles and gatherings and opportunities. They are trying to trick you into consumerism.

Value your tradition above all else. After all it has been round for a long time and has never changed, and young adults are always wanting to customise things and make them their own. Look at the way they mess with their ‘smart phones’.

Preach and teach for all you are worth, but don’t encourage disagreement or questioning.

Make sure you stay tight-lipped about the inner workings of your church. They don’t need to know what goes on behind the scenes.

Say one thing in church, do another out of church.

Take church life very seriously. Goes with out saying really. Young adults who desire fun, at work, school and in their private life, can’t expect to have that in church too.

Take your time. The church has been here for 2000 years and isn’t disappearing tomorrow.

Avoid experimentation at all costs.

So thank you Mr Tapscott for saving the church from the future.

Comments on this blog are interesting — like one way to keep people of a certain age out of church is to call them “young people.” Read more about each of the 8 ways here.

See also Daily Episcopalian: What is healthy about the Episcopal Church


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C. Wingate

There is something ironic about referring to Neil Armstrong, given that his most famous line is surely a lot closer to Cranmer than anything he said on a day-to-day basis. Armstrong was, I would think, sensitive to the notion that ceremonial moments call for ceremonial language.

Also, Dave, I must tell you that your recollection of the contents of the hymnal are incorrect. There are a number of post-1950 texts, and lots of post-1900 music. One should recall that pretty much all of RVW’s output is dated after 1900 (English Hymnal and all that). Even the 1940 hymnal has a lot of 20th century material. It should also be kept in mind that the thirty-odd years between 1950 and 1980 are a small slice of the seventeen hundred or so years of Christian hymnody. There’s no particular reason to privilege the last half-century simply because it is the last half-century.

The larger context of all of this is that it is, once again, a bunch of late-middle-aged people trying to figure out what’s best for young people and then tell them what they like. As Bill says, the recent hymnal survey by the SCLM showed that the people who want something different from traditional church music tend to be middle-aged and tend to be clergy. Young people, and especially young clergy, tended to prefer traditional church music sung congregationally out of a hymnal with an organ. Now of course that means people who are already churchgoing, but the history of all this revisionism is the unwarranted assumption that people who are already members can be taken for granted.

Bill Dilworth

Kevin, do you have in mind something like the Basic (or Base) Ecclesial Communities, pioneered by the RCC in Latin America and Asia?


And, so far as I can see, we REALLY don’t need a lot of money or “permission” to do alot of this stuff. We just do it.

People are standing around, waiting for someone, anyone, to make the first move.

Kevin McGrane


Bill: I think you pose a very good question. “What do we have in mind?”

I also look forward to some concrete examples. I’ve also searched for a few and believe I’ve found them…or, at least, some suggestions.

Two come to mind. A UCC church run by the author Robin Meyer, and another intentional community established by Shane Claiborne.

For my part, I’d encourage some satelite cells attached to a parish, cells that would operate separate from the parish but connected via the staff/congregation. Worship and prayer would be more informal, personal, as well as Eucharist. Cells might have different charisms, like hospitality, or media outreach, or new monasticism, or Third Chapter people.

Kevin McGrane

Bill Dilworth

Cheryl, given the availability of different liturgical material currently available, what’s keeping what you describe from happening now?

It would be helpful, at least to me, if those who say that further change is needed (“Now.”)would point to an example of what they have in mind. Surely there are congregations out there (even if not Episcopal ones) that embody the sort of change desired, I would think.

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