This was written by a family member that has childern about the same age as Beth and I. He is a faithful man of God and has some things to say about his generation and the generations after him. Please feel free to add anything to it or imput some thoughts.......
Human nature leads people to spend their time, money, and talents on things that are either fun or important (or in the best of circumstances, both). I think the younger generation has largely forsaken traditional churches because they are seen as neither fun nor important. I do not believe that the younger generation hates church; rather, they feel it is irrelevant.
Part of the problem is the message. Many churches, as you have pointed out in an earlier E-mail, essentially teach that being a Christian means obeying numerous rules that are mostly prohibitions against certain behaviors. Young people find that to be a major turn-off because they don't see the importance of trying to live in a straight jacket. Furthermore, they are skeptical about this "code of Christianity" because they see people in the church who pay lip service to these rules but don't actually follow many of them.
This is very analogous to the Pharisees in the time of Christ. They took the Ten Commandments and a handful of other instructions given to them by God and built a huge legal system that took all the joy out of serving God and imposed an impossible burden on those who tried to follow the rules. An even bigger part of the problem, I think, is that the worship style of the traditional church does not speak to the younger generation. They have grown up in an era of fast-paced, continuous sensory stimulation -- of television, movies, video games, cell phones, PDAs and theme parks. They find the traditional worship style boring, to put in bluntly. Pipe organs and classical anthems might as well be slide rules and buggy whips as far as they are concerned. The language of the church and the style of worship does not connect.
The interesting thing is that worship style and worship procedure is a creation of man -- not a mandate from God. In Jesus' time there were no pipe organs, grand pianos, acolytes, robed choirs, etc. All of that was introduced by people for the purpose of creating meaningful worship, and it reflected the highest ideals of the culture at the time these worship elements came into being. The culture has subsequently changed, but not the church.
The essentials of church are the message of the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ, ministering to the needs of the people, helping Christians grow spiritually, and providing opportunities for believers to live out their faith. Everything else is debatable and optional.
Ironically, the younger generation is interested in finding answers to life's tough questions: Why are we here? Is there a God, and if there is, can we know him? Where is life headed? What is our ultimate destiny? Are there moral standards that truly matter? But many traditional churches do not spend much time explicitly addressing these issues, and if they do address them, it is not in a language that can be understood by the younger generation.
Our traditional form of church does meet the needs of some -- generally those who are 40 years of age or older and who have grown up with a faith tradition. I am not advocating that all traditional churches should change their style and approach to worship and ministry. But clearly some non-traditional churches are also needed to reach younger persons who have no faith background. The success of Saddleback and Willow Creek demonstrate that if the message is delivered in the right way and if ministry is geared to those with limited faith backgrounds, they can be drawn to Christ -- and in large numbers.