How will our children come to faith? This is the plaintive and almost desperate cry of so many faithful church members. The question is direct but the answer is not. Some of the factors that make up the answer are explored here and will be of crucial importance for the church. Church leaders will find key signposts here as they plan their future, under the power of the Spirit.
Initially I planned to research new models of ministry that churches were developing. I then widened the study, recognising that the changing social context in NZ will influence the ways churches engage with their communities. This report highlights the issues that will shape the church over the next decades.
The Western world has changed so much over the last eighty years that emerging generations live in a quite different environment than their parents or grandparents. The nature of the changes, and the consequent likely paths for successful Christian engagement with emerging generations, comprise this paper. It is a big topic and the paper is short, so this implies at least two issues. These major topics will be dealt with briefly and a short paper is more likely to be read. An extensive bibliography is included at the end so that readers can investigate more extensively why the world is now viewed in quite different ways. There is also a power point presentation available, suitable for a half-day discussion, when parish leadership is planning for their future.
There are two major themes. The move from the modern world to a post-modern world, which changes the way different generations operate and the skills they use to investigate and interpret the world. Secondly, as our society becomes much more secular, the people of God are beginning to take their Christian involvement out from the church and into their community We are thus moving from a Church Culture into a local Mission Culture.
Both themes require significant mind shifts for the Church. This may include new models of ministry for the church. Already some of these are being developed in the church and are discussed in a later chapter. I suspect though that if the church is flexible enough to cope with the two major trends outlined above, then further new ways of doing ministry will flow as a consequence. Some of the models discussed later will be early indicators of what is to come. Most, however, are attempts at doing traditional ministry in a way that is achievable within current resources!
The Revelation to John contains challenging and often unpalatable advice for the future of the seven churches, finishing with these challenging words, which I endorse in the current climate:
"If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!" ( Rev 2:7)