Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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Traditions and Today's Youth

I was listening to a Mark Driscoll message on a run recently and heard him say something pretty close to this and yesterday I posted it on Twitter (I can’t find the original talk to verify the exact quote):

Every church needs to decide if it will embrace its traditions or its kids. Most churches choose traditions and lose their kids.

Now and then those of you who don’t use Twitter miss out on things (don’t worry, I used to be a Twitter hater too) and I don’t want you to miss out on this.

It was interesting to see people from varying opinions react to the quote.

I’m curious what you think though:

Do you think the quote is true?

Do you think it is possible to have some traditions and still reach today’s kids?

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  • Jake Belder

    I guess I would need to hear the message for context because I’m not sure how the two are related. It seems like a false dichotomy to me.

    • Tyler

      Definitely each church’s own context will provide a different answer to this question. But judging by statistics alone, I think this quote is hard to argue with.

  • Kyle Reed

    I personally think this quote is dead on. Especially after the conversations I have been having lately.
    Church is not about one person or even one generation. For some reason it seems that it has turned into that though. Which leads to a big problem amongst older and younger generations. Now for me to walk in to church today and start to tell a 60 yr old minister that he needs to change everything because they are not relevant would really ostracize me from him and the church community. Mainly because I would be doing the same thing as him, wanting the church to cater to my generation and wants.

    I think there has to be a compromise, and honestly I think the older generation needs to bring that compromise.

    When Matt Chandler walked into his church in Texas it was an older member church. He told them that they were going after the younger generation and that he needed their help. He needed them to be there to mentor, guide, and shape the next generation. That things would not be always up to what they wanted but that they could be apart of a movement. As we know now they decided to join in instead of demand that it was about them.

    This is a great conversation to have.

  • Carrie

    So we all know that Mark Driscoll is not excessively diplomatic, and of course that comment could offend people. That’s OK. That’s him. He’s trying to get us to think.

    I think this is true now and will always be true. When we get older (I’m 30ish), the “kids” will want to change our “new” traditions, and we’d better adapt, or they will leave.

    I also think that, instead of couching this generationally, we should couch it as…How do we reach people (of any age) who don’t know Christ and weren’t raised in the old church traditions? (Hint: It’s probably not by continuing in the same traditions that mean nothing to those who didn’t grow up with them.)

  • AmyE

    I understand the point behind this, but I think that we totally short change our kids, by saying kids can’t appreciate tradition. Think of all the family traditions that we teach our kids … and many of them grow to love and count on them each year and each season. The difference is we teach them the meaning behind them. The hymn “It is Well with My Soul” was on in my car (a somewhat updated version), and my 15 year old son was singing along … and enjoying it. When I shared the story behind the hymn, he was blown away. My point is … if we could allow the “young people” to understand why the hymn or tradition mattered to the older generation … what trial those particular words brought them through, I think our kids are compassionate enough to appreciate that each of us has our own story and our own way of connecting with God. It may not be our favorite style, but we are raising globally aware kids who are being taught to see the world through others’ eyes, and I think we can help them see that they don’t need their church experience spoon fed to them in only one way just because that’s the sound or media element that they like. Being the body of Christ involves including the whole body … and yes, this goes the other way as well, the older learning to understand the younger as well.

    • Tyler

      I can’t say I disagree with anything you said Amy. Within the music/worship area of church, I especially agree. The problem I have with hymns is when people demand they be sung (they aren’t the Bible) or when they need to be played a specific way (think organ). That to me is more about tradition than spiritual formation.

      • Yonas

        I think you’re just jealous cause organ players are cool and awesome!! :)

      • Alan Wilkerson

        Remember the praise song you just “retired”? There are going to be and already are those who insist that “Heart of Worship” be sung a certain way and that “Better is One Day” be done with the original country twang.

        There’s an old cartoon with an aged pastor and congregation in their chairs. The preacher is saying, “this church was formed to minister to the baby-boomers and we’re going to continue to minister to the baby-boomers”.


  • theycallmepastorbryan

    Can we please distinguish between church traditions and Church Tradition? Otherwise, where does it end? Is communion relevant? what about baptism? These are all traditions.

    Being locked into traditions and not being willing to assess them is certainly a bad thing, but on the other side, unthinkingly embracing the new and constantly seeking to ditch something because it’s old is also quite unhealthy. As Eugene Peterson has remarked about the current state of the church – it’s a mile wide and an inch deep. Mostly because we have replaced tradition with fad.

    At some point, we have to be willing to go back to Tradition, put down our chronological snobbery and be willing to say that yes, those who came before us have had some remarkable insight into how we might conduct ourselves, but then invite the next generation to also be inventive in a similar way.

    That is, next gen vs tradition is not necessitated, for in all reality we need both.

    • theycallmepastorbryan

      Also, I think there’s a danger in too much generational redefinition that sneaks in a secret message of “church is about you.” I stand with Peterson in saying that the church and the pastor must be subversive to that line of thinking that life and the church is about us.

    • Tyler

      This, to me, is clearly church traditions not Church Tradition.

      • Bryan Dormaier

        That not withstanding, it still rubs me as having the potential to be quite selfish and chronologically snobbish.

  • Angie

    I completely agree with this quote. The Church should be a living, growing entity. If we hold the ‘traditions’ of the past too tightly, we can’t embrace the future open armed. This does not mean that we discard Truth or compromise healthy doctrine. But it does mean that we look for relevant, fresh ways to convey those points.
    Every generation goes through this and it always causes controversy. I remember when I was in elementary school and our Sunday School teacher started teaching us ‘choruses’ rather than hymns. What a ruckus that caused.
    Ezra 3 talks about this very issue, shouts of joy mingled with wailing for the past. We must reach the next generation. If not, who will carry the truth and power of the name of Jesus beyond now?

  • Ben

    I think looking at how much a church budget goes towards children’s, youth or young adult ministries vs. traditional ministries should say enough about where they focus their resources.
    However, the trickier balance is overcompensating for younger ministries/people and forgetting that older people need some lovin too.
    Just a thought.

  • bondChristian

    It starts to seem like, “Should we embrace our older people or our kids?” And there’s a problem when that choice needs to be made.

    I think we’re focusing too much on the medium and ignoring the message, as cliche as that sounds.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

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  • Craig

    I think the statement is true.

    I don’t think in necessarily means choosing kids or older adults…that’s a false choice. There’s a balance to be had.

    In my role as Director of Child, Youth, and Family Ministries, I’m relegated all the stuff no one wants to do…and that is communicate with the youth. When someone wants the youth to do something, they come to me and expect me to ask them. And they wonder why the youth don’t feel as if they are a part of the congregation. But it’s done this way because that’s the way it was done prior to me assuming this role.

    I think we can trace it to the mindset that “Kids are the church of tomorrow.” Often they are treated that way.

  • ash

    wow, his statement is fantastic. of course, i have made it no secret how i feel about each generation progressing it’s faith. i just wrote two blogs on moving forward and those holding onto tradition. thanks for sharing. i think he’s right.

  • http://? Carol McMahan

    Yes I think it is possible to have some of the old traditions kept, the ones that are meaningful and in Scripture, but I think the young person needs to be shown just how they are meaningful, and not that “Its just what we have always done.” Young people hate that! (I am OLD, and I hate it!) We need unity in our churches, and we so need our young people to hang with us and give us new ideas. After all, Scripture is ALIVE…it is not ever meant to become just empty old tradition.

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