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Church Hopping or …”

Recently my colleagues and I started an honest discussion about church hopping and what is our role in encouraging it or discouraging it.  We were talking about two different demographics, college students and young adults, but nonetheless there were fundamental questions that were raised. 

Recently my colleagues and I started an honest discussion about church hopping and what is our role in encouraging it or discouraging it.  We were talking about two different demographics, college students and young adults, but nonetheless there were fundamental questions that were raised. 

"Where are they establishing roots?", "How many voices are speaking into their lives?", "How influential are the voices that are speaking into their lives?", "Why do they hop?", "Are they just being consumers or are there other forces at play?", "What is our responsibility as staff at a church?"

Recognizing that church hopping is quite common, not just amongst those under 35, but amongst other age demographics, this issue raises many concerns.  Our conversation particularly talked about the 18-35 age range and was quite lively with various opinions and thoughts on the issue.  One thought that arose is that we should not assume that someone who is church hopping is necessarily doing it out of consumerism.  I think that is what we assume, but there may be other factors at play.

One factor that might be at play is that someone's primary community today is not always the church.  Their primary community could be their neighborhood, it could be their high school classmates, it could be their college classmates or their graduate school classmates.  Their community is being found amongst their peers and they follow one another, they follow their community of friends.  I don't know that this means they are being consumers, but they are being loyal to their community, not the organization that might bring their community together every once in a while.  Maybe they have already established their roots and their roots are their community that is outside of the church?  It seems that younger people are establishing their community through the people around them naturally, and who they spend the most time with and talk with, not just the place where they go a couple times a week.  They are being drawn and held together to people, not an institution.  They are loyal to people, not to an organization.

What does this (and much more) mean for us?  We didn't get that far and I think we're still mulling over things said and thoughts had afterwards.  I have a feeling this conversation will be going on for a while …

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7 Comments

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    Heather A. Goodman

    I appreciate this question

    I appreciate this question and even more that you guys were willing to say that not all church-hoppers are consumers (although this is a big problem–not just for church-hoppers, but expectations in general for the worship service).

    I wonder if one of the factors with that age group is the changes a person undergoes during those years–college and early career, especially. I think of who I was at 18 and who I am now, only 12 years later, and I realize the drastic changes, not in personality, but in personal development, in values and passion, in time priorities.

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      Laura Murray

      Yes, the bizillion
      Yes, the bizillion transitions that are possible during this time period is a huge factor in where someone connects.

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    Anonymous

    Churchhopping
    Do you think that churchhopping is becoming the “norm” for most people? I can certainly understand why a young adult would be more apt to practice this than adults 35 +. However, circumstances noted, I believe that it is very difficult for a new person/family to become a member of a church that has been established for a long time by people who have known each other for a long time. There seems to be a barrier that separates the two. There are circles of established relationships within circles within the church that people are reluctant to allow newcomers to enter. That has developed more notceably in the last twenty or so years with the rise of different types of crimes. Churches have become little fortresses with those participating using devices and training to become more legal savvy and street smart. It’s sad, and there could be other varying factors as to why the “welcome mat” isn’t on the front step of the church, but I know that the friendliness has all but gone from the church environment. People need a place to “fit in.” If they are not accepted where they attend or visit, the quest continues or stops altogether. How should the church respond? //////

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      Laura Murray

      Definitely a factor to consider

      I would agree that a longer established church or even a church in a small community can be pretty "closed" to newer people.

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    Anonymous

    church hopping
    There is another slant to this that I think is overlooked. We have changed churches many different times, primarily due to Children’s Church or Youth. Unfortunately, these areas have become areas of entertainment with teaching only being a sideline. The focus often becomes centered on numbers and the more entertainment you provide, the more “numbers” you will draw. I don’t think that these areas should be without the fun times, but the balance is entirely out of whack. We have found that with the youth, so many youth pastors are not wanting to be that pastor/mentor but that “friend” that becomes one of the youth…..much like the parent that tries to be their child’s friend without being the parent first. Yes, it is our responsibility to teach our child at home but the church is supposed to come along beside us – not necessarily bring more and more of the world into the church. If the children’s church pastor and your pastor display conduct or attitudes that are inappropriate, it is hard to allow that person to be in such an important position in your child’s life. And, as previously talked about with the “inner circles”, this goes for these children/teen areas as well and when those in charge do not stay on top of this and allow the cliques (usually kids who have gone to church together for ages and don’t accept others in), this is also harmful to the kids—–even to the point of them not wanting to go to Sunday School or Youth, etc. I know of one family where the teen actually saw the “dualness” in the youth pastor and realized how different his real life was from what he portrayed as the youth pastor. He begged his parents to go to another church and they would not. Consequently, when the teen graduated from high school, he refused to attend church any more. This is a very abbreviated example because a lot of details have been left out but I know there are probably many other stories similar to this one.
    If the kid are not being spiritually fed at church and their church experience is primarily entertainment fed, is it no wonder that the college kids falls away once they get out from under mom and dad? Another reason people often leave is that once they get in a church and get involved, it can sometimes not be what it looked like from the outside. One church we were at was so tightly controlled by the pastor and deacons that you almost had to ask permission to breathe! Another was so activity oriented that if you were unable to attend all the functions, meetings, etc you were seriously left out. There are far more reasons than “consumerism” – there are some real issues with many of our churches today…. many serious reasons that cause people to go from church to church.

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    Anonymous

    Church Hopping
    i will admit to Church hopping myself when i moved to a new area because i had to find a church home i was comfortable in. A few that i went to seemed to focus either on money or it was a fashion show. Before i moved i attended a wonderful church and loved my church familiy there, now living about 2 hours away i was forced to find a new family, and thankfully not only have i, but my new pastor personally knows my previous pastor and they both have the same thought processes.

    This is a very intuittive artical, but there are many reasons people church hop and at least a few more need to be looked into.

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