Sunday Reflection: Why are young adults leaving the established churches?

This question keeps popping up. Why do we have young adults walking away from the organisation, the church, even when they confess a faith, and practice spiritual rituals?

It is of course a very complex question with many views. I would just like to tease out a few of them? From a psychological view, it could be argued that children need to differentiate themselves from their parents and distancing themselves from their parent’s church is one view, though if this was so, then why are they not filling the pews up in other congregations? 

Another view is one expressed by the Intergenerational movement, that we should engage our children with other members of the congregation, mentor or befriend them so that they have safe intergenerational connections. I can’t fault that thinking, as I have seen the empty looks on my own children as they stand in “their” church but don’t have a bond with any of the adults present. The other side of that idea is that even in places where I have seen bonds with trusted adults, they will not stay.

Another idea, is that they need people their own age to form a faith community. That I do think is an important need. Yet even young adults that have enjoyed each other’s company through the decades from their birth to adulthood, may not necessarily continue to worship together. Is it something to do with the changed role of the social lives of our young?  To me it appears that they are more sporadic with face to face connections, while they stay in contact now more easily with friends and acquaintances as they move from schools, jobs, university, and around the world (when able) due to social media. One focal point for their social activities is not the role of the church in their lives. 

I wonder if a weekly service is necessary, when you can pick up a Bible Reading and reflection app, that also connects you to others views on Instagram, when you can eat with your family and share ritual and talk faith? 

Are we experiencing a social change that requires structural change and new formatting? Have we failed to keep abreast of change? 

Now my church history is not my strong suite, but bear with me, when did a weekly service happen? During the industrial age, we know that Sunday Schools were created as a social outreach to occupy the children, who were free from work that day and running wild because they didn’t go to church. Further in time, in past agrarian eras, we read of feasts, that bought people together, but many farmers especially poor farmers would not leave the farm and walk to church every Sunday. Even in the days of Jesus, Jerusalem was THE temple. Not every Jew went to Jerusalem every week. They went to give an offering, and if male to listen to a teacher. It is only in the early days of Christian faith communities that we hear of breakfast gatherings to pray and eat together. (Acts 2:43-47, 12:12)

Society is experiencing a massive change in the way we work, where we work, how we communicate, it is only logical to me that people are changing the way they worship, and that the young are leading that charge, we just need to catch up with them. They are leading the charge and they know all the podcasts, apps, Youtube channels that allow them to form a virtual community of faith, and to look to the old local church for the “feast” day experience. 

Not every geographical community wants to change their ways, some because they need fellowship and hospitality as their expression of faith. But in being dogmatic about the way faith is expressed fail to plug their youth into the great Church, leaving them to wonder in the social media vastland instead of preparing them for what they might find out there. Forming faith connections that allow not just an expression of spirituality, but also an identity or frame in which it fits, for a communal expression of faith. 

I see OddSonder an outreach of the Murrumbeena Uniting Church in Australia as being a wonderful example that may be leading the way in this. 

There is much to pray and ponder on.

Please add your thoughts, I’d love to hear what others think.


Wendy L.

I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.


What does a Quokka have to do with worship?

Please meet our QuokkaIMG_2629

a toy version of an Australian marsupial

You may well ask “what are you showing us that for?  then even ask ” But he belongs on the other side of the country anyway?” if you know a little something about Quokka’s and where I write from, Melbourne, Australia.

He is our latest attempt to satisfy Church Councils Outreach objectives.

I have been working with an amazing group of people, everyone blessed with a different skill set, but everyone focused on finding ways to engage the community in which we live. They are also unique in that they all implicitly have an understanding of spiritual formation.

My favourite book  on  Children’s Spirituality is one by Rebecca Nye ( Children’s Spirituality- What is it and Why it matters, 2000, Church house London). It explains why such a diverse bunch as our group could understand it so well, even when being blessed with very different skill sets. And though Nye differentiates Adult spirituality as being about particular experiences (p.7) and children’s as being more holistic (p.8), she does concede that they are connected in two ways, “first, a key task for adult spiritual maturity is to “become like a child” —–Secondly, children become adults and so carry forward their spiritual formation.(p.11). Speaking for my self I would be honoured if you think I’m spiritually “Childish”.

So though Methodism started with an outreach to the worker, we, in what could be defined as an “affluent suburb”, saw our mission as reengaging the community with the idea of worship. The thing that is missing from their lives.

Don’t get me wrong we do participate in some traditional forms of mission. But we have a steady stream of community who use our facilities everyday for everything other than the purpose they were built for, too worship.

Now I don’t think Quokka, chosen because he is Australia’s most photogenic marsupial, after a few alternative suggestions, can do that on his own.

We have employed him to hold signs up around the sanctuary during the week to educate anyone curious about what happens in that space.

Here is our Minister in one of the signs In Church Pulpit, I have his permission to use this one (that’s trust!). We have used simple words and a picture of the area of the church in use, so that all may understand.

We have also used the signs to make a book.

We have created a families worship space at the front of the church, IMG_2619IMG_2619and are creating a children’s activity space in the foyer, where caregivers who feel that they need to leave the service can go, and where our youngest visitors during the week will always be welcome to read, play or rest.

Many of our parishioners, take the time to smile or say hello to those that use our facilities, we have a new website, multimedia slide presentations. We have a fountain made for an anniversary by the children of the congregation that attracts all visitors.

We don’t have a child and family minister, ( just an ex one).

We are still a missional church our outreach audience and methods are a little different, that’s all. But hey, wasn’t Jesus, a little different too, and encouraging of the children in the communities he preached! We hope that we have followed in that.

So what is your mission, and how does that include children’s spirituality.


Wendy L.

Are we abusing the senior church members by not being intergenerational?

I had a stimulating discussion last week, with someone who has done much to advance the cause of Child and Family Ministry in Australia. During  that conversation, what has, to me, become a very common question with respect to anything to do with children in the church came up and that is the question about whether the concept/practice is abusive to the children? We were, on this occasion, discussing the issue of children in worship. Many people have written about this issue, either academically or within the blogging community so there are a few views out there, on both sides of the fence. Now I could dive in and add to the body of work. But I started to think differently about this issue. Are we abusing the senior church members by not being intergenerational?

These are some of the things that came quickly to mind.

What we have learnt about the ageing brain is that if we don’t use it we lose it, we need to stay engaged and we will not continue to grow our mind by doing the same things. Change and challenge is an essential part of maintaining brain health in the elderly. When we change our worship processes we are staying engaged, our minds are being stimulated.

As a teacher, I learnt about multiple intelligences. In a traditional worship service, we may not be engaging all of our ways of learning, thus by introducing different ways of learning into the worship experience we are opening our seniors up to stimulation and change. This may not be happening in other areas of their lives.

In an intergenerational environment, everyones experience can inspire others and it is an environment that encourages the senior to share their experience and to be valued for whom they are. Their more complex life stories can encourage and inspire others.

One of the experiences I valued most was the smile that would cross an elderly wheelchair bound member of our community, when the children were moved to the front of the church and she could see them. She had no children or grandchildren, and during worship was the only time that her life was filled by the wonders of children.

The Australian Human rights Commission, states that

There are certain human rights and freedoms that are particularly relevant to older people, including the right to:

• an adequate standard of living including access to adequate food, clothing and housing• the highest possible standard of physical and mental health
• work and fair working conditions
• be safe and free from violence

• be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

• privacy
• family life.

Click to access HRA_older.pdf


At church we often feed body and soul,

Our elderly often “work” alongside others

we need to work for a safe environment for all

as a Child of God, they are participating in God’s family.

Thus church is a place where these human rights can be experienced, an Intergenerational experience at church is one that deepens these opportunities, and allows opportunity to grow, or at best maintain brain function.

To abuse is to not allow the senior to experience their rights. Rather than placing them on the outer, an Intergenerational approach seeks to engage all, value everyone, and experience worship in a multi intelligent format.

Now over to you


Wendy L.

If we do it – will they come?

My home congregation is ageing, but does that mean that just because at present the youngest are not part of our congregation that we should not prepare as if they are?

It is so frustrating preparing elements of worship that are not going to be fully utilised, so it is easy to see that congregations would just give up, expecting that they could spend their time on something really useful, rather than being prepared for something or someone that doesn’t appear.

But as soon as I think along those lines or hear others proclaim them I immediately hear the story of the bridesmaids in Matthew 25: 1-13, and remind myself to be ready for even the youngest child to have an opportunity to have a faith experience.

Because they will, find their way into our aging congregation. They might be bought  by Grandma or Grandpa, they might be visiting friends or family in the area, or they might be new to the area and checking out the local churches.

I have even been involved in congregations that claim they have very little young children, but what they mean is that they don’t have them every week. Yet when things are provided for children and families in worship their regularity has increased, prompting the congregation to wonder “where have all these children come from”

Sometimes it doesn’t take very much, the creation of a families space, near the front of the sanctuary. Some quality Christian story books, or quiet clean and safe toys. Some children’s bibles and work sheets or colouring in sheets on the readings or theme of the day. you might like to try or, which can be downloaded and printed on the day, depending on the number of children you have present. Don’t forget to have pencils or texta’s that are sharpened or working.

Allocate an Elder or volunteer who will welcome any family when they arrive, and help them settle in, or understand the service.

You might also look at having a change table in the toilets, and some safe steps or children’s toilet seat. Just in case!


Wendy L

Engaging kids

I’ve been making an effort to travel with my husband both for business and pleasure. Travelling can be hard on a partnership but so can the separations. So a note to those caring for couples that experience separation due to work commitments, there really is no “one size fits all” solution. Both situations have their advantages and disadvantages for the families and those of us caring for this increasingly common situation need to be mindful that caring for a family in the midst of any crisis is what our calling is about. We need to love more, judge less.

But that’s actually not what I feel called to write about. I have taken more interest in the ways that the different countries value and interact with children. Now that I am no longer travelling with children, I have the luxury of observing. How can I judge. I have my fair share of cranky, overtired, out of routine and time zone episodes. Mmm unfortunately I’m not just talking about the children!!

I’m noticing more children’s play area’s in the world’s airports. In Portugal last year I even discovered children’s toilets at a train station. Museums, art galleries and classic arts such as music and theatre are making more effort to engage children in the exhibits or performances. Interactive displays at children’s height has almost become the norm. But I can’t name one church that I have visited lately, either at home or abroad that makes any effort to engage the younger visitor outside of worship services.

What is the artwork about, how is the stained glass used or what are the stories they’re telling? What are the buildings used for? How do we use them? What happens when people aren’t allowed to wonder around them? Why is the cross like this here and like that in the church down the road? If we fail to engage our youngest visitors, educate or excite them, will the museums and galleries be more significant to people of the future, than our churches have been in previous centuries? Do we really believe these monuments will continue to speak to future generations?

It is not just worship that is changing. How we engage, outreach and treat our faith monuments are also up for review.

Let me know what your church is doing to engage children outside of worship.


Wendy Lewis

Communion as a place for Intergenerational learning and acceptance

My two favourite stories come from some of the youngest members in my care.

The first story is of a newly minted toddler, two weeks earlier she was a crawler, easily picked up by her parents when ever she moved out of range, and bought back to the fold.

Now she had disappeared. In any church a missing child is a concern but to an inner city church, a thousand awful  possibilites crossed my mind.

While some of us searched, and the concern was starting to swell forward from the rear of the church, communion was going on. Where did we find her, sitting at our Minister’s feet, waiting patiently for her “errant” parents (that seemed to be the look on her face) to join her so she could have communion.

The second was another slightly older child, who took to serving “communion” to his parents at the start of each meal.

These children regularly, every second week, participated, along with the other members of our congregation in Communion, which was an open table for “all who love Him, and those who want to love Him more”.

This truely intergenerational regular moment, was a true embodiment of remembrance of and for Christ.

Everyone who wanted to be was involved. Even Baby’s in arms were blessed,

Communion elements went to all, including the children.

It was a regular occurrence, meaning that even the most time pressured of parents, managed to participate regularly.

Children demonstrated, through their behaviour that they understood how important this event was, and that they wanted to be a part of it.

Adults allowed them to participate equally. Making space for families to be together, and not excluding the children.

Not every congregation has the capacity to frequently include communion, though some manage it every week.

Not every denomination, allows for an open table.

To me it seemed the most inclusive, intergenerational moment.

I am curious if others have had similar experiences. Or have other experiences of inclusivity.


Wendy L.

Aussie Music Music Music in the key of Faith

Faith expression and music go hand in hand. John Wesley thought it so important that he wrote a list( a long list) of important requirements.

So I thought I would run through a few Christian Australian musicians making children’s music.

Colin Buchanan numerous see

J for Jesus by Emu Music

or Get Ready for the slightly older crew

Snack Music

Sean Smith

or more mellow try Heather Price

Have fun finding the style that suits your family/ies best.

Let me know of others so we can expand this list


Wendy L.

Intergenerational doesn’t go far enough

Yesterday was ANZAC day a remembrance of the combined Australian and New Zealand  forces and the horror of World War 1 at Gallipoli, and Villers-Bretonneux. Forging national identities and tales of heroism and friendship in their wake.

As I watched the services I was reminded of the diversity in the crowds, both in age and in backgrounds.

Where else do I see such diversity?

Church. Yes, even when the faces may all have the same hew, I know that some speak a language other than english, I know that some have been refugees of modern wars.

Much noise is made these days about the importance of being intergenerational in worship. It is one of the rare opportunities we have of sharing in a non-segregated manner, not just for children, but for all of us.

Studies done in the Netherlands have shown that the aged benefit from having younger people living with them. see also or

In worship we should be one, regardless of age, background or heritage.

Here we can learn to be brothers and sisters. One young person under my care in an integrated service, pointed out that as an only child they didn’t know how to be a sibling. Over our years together, that child learnt to be a great big sister and how to enjoy being a little sister. While still going home an only child.

I watched our infirm smile at the antics of our youngest members.

I listened as people translated, shared their histories, and shared the thing we all had in common, our faith.

When we regularly attend church we don’t have to wait for “one day a Year” ANZAC day to see all this. We see it each week. We don’t see it when we take our children to sport instead, or staying home because we are worn out by the pressures of the week.

No matter your age we all benefit from this intergenerational experience called Church.