It’s a critically important word in today’s culture. With all of the opportunities and options open to people whose available time is limited due to life responsibilities and obligations, people, whether explicitly or implicitly, use a value system in choosing what to do and what to bypass.
I know that it has often been said that the amount of available time a person/family has in today’s world is less than what it was in the past. While I am unable to definitively say whether this is true or not, I am certain of one thing: if something is valuable to a person or family, somehow time will be carved out time for that thing. If something is considered valuable, the schedule will be arranged, or re-arranged, in order to accommodate that thing.
I see a direct connection between this reality and what is happening to the church. When deciding what to do, being actively involved in a church just doesn’t have much value for younger families. If something needs to go by the wayside during a particular week or period of time, being active in a church (being in attendance at worship gatherings and other programs/activities) can often be one of the first things to go. That demonstrates that, for them, there just isn’t a very high value placed upon it.
For my generation (the Baby Busters, of which I am one of the older members) and the succeeding generations, it is often the case that things are prioritized based upon its value. If something is deemed as not adding much value to life, then that is something that is first to go. But the opposite is also true. If something is deemed to be of high value, then people will go to great lengths to make that thing or time or activity happen, even up to the point of rearranging schedules or eliminating other less-valuable activities and things from the schedule.
So, what’s the conclusion from all of this? The value placed upon being involved and connected to a faith community (a local church) is not all that high by those who may have been connected to one at some point in the past. And because value assessment is the foundational issue, just changing things up a little bit, like changing the style, day, and time of worship, for instance, will not have much effect after a short burst of success. Unless the value assigned to it increases, eventually those people will return to what once was.
Do I have the answers as to how perceived value in being an active part of a church will happen? Unfortunately, at this point, not really, but it is a subject which God and I are having continuing conversations. But of this, I am most certain; it will involve relationships and helping people move forward and building their lives and those of their family and those of their neighborhood and those of their community. People find that of very high value.
And maybe, just maybe, when they connect the value of moving forward and building in one’s life and that of their family, neighborhood, and community with being actively involved in a faith community, that’s when the trend of being an active participant in a faith community being the first thing to go will start moving in the other direction.