how Your church can Become
By Karen Stiller
A major study called Hemorrhaging Faith, introduced by Faith
Today last fall, has got the Canadian Church talking. To continue
the discussion about how youth are walking out the church door
and what to do about it, Faith Today is launching a practical new
series Youth and Your Church.
For one young man it was the prison ministry of some “older ladies” that really got to him. Why would they choose to serve so actively instead of
slowing down in their retirement?
Their example strengthened his own faith, he told the
authors of Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian
Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and
Returning to Church.
James Penner and the other co-
authors of the report heard such com-
ments repeatedly in their interviews
with 72 Canadians aged 18–34.
And they saw it again and again in
the polling they did with 2,049 young
Put simply: A strong and au-
value system in a church
is an attractive feature for
young Canadian adults.
Intergenerational means all the genera-
tions of course, but two come immediately
to mind – youth and seniors.
Harry Van Belle is a 75-year-old retired
psychology professor in Edmonton and
author of Intergeneration Lost and Found: Why Suits and
Skirts Don’t Talk With Jeans, Why They Should and How
They Can (CreateSpace, 2012).
“I am three times older than the young people we are
talking about. They are weird. Nice and weird. I shouldn’t
be able to talk to them – but I can!” says Van Belle. “I’m
a mentor to many of them.”
He says the first step to stripping away the fear
and misunderstanding between generations is to
understand how they are different.
“Young people aren’t interested in
final answers. They are questioning
everything. Older people are into the
certainty of knowing. When a young
person asks a question, an older per-
son says, ‘You can’t ask that.’ When
an older person says this has to be
the truth, the younger person asks,
‘Says who?’ ”
Get the two groups talking, though,
and great things happen.
“I don’t want us to write another
program,” says Van Belle. “I want
people to just be human with one another. We have to
decide we’re going to change the Church. If you’re going
to start a relationship with someone different from you,
and that is true of the generations, then you have to love
the otherness of others. You have to appreciate that they
are not like you.”
Loving the “otherness of others” means you know
them. Penner says a church that wants intimacy between
value system in a
church is an
More Tips That Work:
• Put some treasure where your heart is. “You don’t want
to play into consumerism,” says Boucher, but if the children’s ministry is working with “a felt board from the ’70s,
and then you walk into a glitzy sanctuary for the adults. . .
You have to put your money where your mouth is and not
give kids the leftovers.”
• Have an intergenerational service. Schedule services
where the generations worship together. Some churches
do this once a month, some do it a few times a year, like
Boucher’s church. “I’m not talking about the depths of
sanctification that morning, but we’re not doing it light
either,” says Boucher. “We try to structure the service
based on who will be present.” Prior to the service Bou-
cher has mined the church for celebratory stories like
“the nine-year-old who no longer has to sleep with a night
light, or a teen who is no longer cutting, or a marriage that
got back together.” Those stories are told with permis-
sion, and the generations celebrate together.