Church Takes on Challenge of Reaching Generation X

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 12, 1997 | Go to article overview

Church Takes on Challenge of Reaching Generation X


Byline: The Rev. Rose Lee Kajiwara is a pastor at Faith Alliance Bible Church, Des Plaines

At the turn of the century, advancements in technology, the pressures on the nuclear family, and an increasingly diverse society are bringing new challenges to the Christian church in America. These pressures have given rise to a new, disaffected youth culture known as Generation X, and many churches are struggling to hold on to this group.

At this same time, Faith Alliance Bible Church in Des Plaines is facing its fastest growth precisely within this age group. Although Rev. Samuel Lee began in Westmont with fewer than 30 people, in less than five years, it has grown to more than 200 Sunday attendants, with half its population in the youth and twenty-something age range. This multi-ethnic church draws Generation Xers with a commitment to study and meat their needs.

The statistics related to Generation X are sobering. According to Neil Howe and Bill Strauss, every day in the United States, 13 youth commit suicide, 16 are murdered, 1,000 become mothers, 100,000 bring guns to school, 2,200 drop out of school, 500 begin using drugs, 1,000 become addicted to alcohol, 3,500 are assaulted, 630 are robbed and 80 are raped.

The emergencies of Generation X challenge American churches to learn to meet the unique needs of this new generation. Today's churches face a major exodus of young people unless each church comes to terms with the demands of Generation X.

Generation X is not drawn to churches by old-fashioned methods, organ music or highly structured services. Christianity Today lists the five most important characteristics demanded by Generation X: authenticity, community, abandonment of dogmatism, a force on the arts and diversity.

In short, the new generation seeks honesty over politeness, relationships over achievements, experience over dogma, feelings over tradition and racial reconciliation over cultural segregation.

The challenges of Generation X become even more magnified among Asian-American immigrants. Because the immigrant first generation and the second generation born to them in America have different cultural pressures, expectations and languages, the Asian-American Generation X experiences an even greater sense of parental neglect and alienation. They feel great confusion over both their social and personal identity.

This would explain the current rise of difficulties among Asian-American Generation X, both at school and in society. Where many schools once perceived Asian-Americans as model students, that perception is now being challenged by an increasing crime rate even in this subculture, and churches have not been exempt from this trend.

Traditional Asian-American church leadership has been slow to respond to these changes. With its traditionally hierarchical view of leadership, the first-generation senior pastors have seen the groaning rise of second generation pastors as employees, rather than ministry partners. As such, these churches failed to develop mentorship relationships between older and younger pastors and have failed to develop intergenerational community.

In their defense, however, the cultural differences between the immigrant generation and the second generation create misunderstandings that lead senior pastors to view their junior pastors as insubordinate, impatient, undisciplined, immature and even materialistic. The first generation views itself as visionaries. Thus, the doers and the dreamers are often at odds with one another.

Faith Alliance Bible Church has instituted a four-fold approach to this challenge. Rev. Lee's plan calls for the church to F.A.C.E. the issues: Follow the Spirit, Acknowledge the problem, Choose a model, Enhance communication. …

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