'So what should we do?'
Growth in four out of every five churches in the Twin Cities is stalled or declining. Leaders want to know what the growing churches are doing differently. They want ideas and suggestions from scouts watching the situation.

Leaders are asking

'So what do you think we should do?' – or something similar – is the most common question Church Scouts are asked.

Policy relaxed

The general policy of Church Scouts is not to editorialize or recommend but rather just gather, sift, organize and deliver relevant data without comment. However, because of the frequency and intensity of this question, the general policy is somewhat relaxed in this section.

Opinions in this section

Church Scouts are constantly visiting Twin Cities churches ... talking with church leaders ... conversing with people on the streets ... reading surveys, news articles and books ... engaging with consultants ... and doing analysis to determine what it all means with respect to strategic action for church growth.

Even though not their role, it would be rude and uncaring for scouts to refuse to give any personal opinions when asked.  

So, in this section only, Church Scouts express what they believe are the six major categories of changes needed to reverse the general decline in church attendance, income, participation and influence – in short, the decline in disciple-making.

In Christian terms, a disciple is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the big issue here is: With each new generation, in the Twin Cities, how is the proportion of believers growing or declining? See the actual data.

Usually, facts speak for themselves, but sometimes facts can become so overwhelming that leaders have difficulty in translating them into action steps.

That's why, in this section, scouts offer their priorities and views regarding the major issues they believe need attention and change in Twin Cities churches.

FOR DESIGN OF A CHURCH
This section will be developed over time with detailed observations and examples, but for now it is a check list of objectives to build into the thinking, teaching and function of the church.
1. Answers

Christians spend a lot of time getting answers for questions that people (particularly unbelievers) are not asking, but are generally unprepared to answer the big questions people are asking.

Theology

Christians generally are weak in knowing what and why they believe. They rely mostly on feelings, tradition and opinions.

A strong theological foundation is needed for grounding believers in the basics of Christian faith.

This needs to be more than reciting a creed. The basic concepts – with coherent reasons – need to be taught so that Christians can discuss them easily with others.

Be able to talk about more than just good living; be able to talk sensibly about sin, atonement and salvation, in every-day language.

Questions

Unbelievers have many questions they need answered, but Christians dodge the tough questions, often with a deer-in-the-headlights look.

If a Christian can't answer satisfactorily, it implies that there is no answer or, even worse, that the person hasn't even thought about it.

Just to say, 'That's what the Bible says,' or 'That's what my church teaches' is not a satisfactory answer. People need evidence that Christians have worked through the issues, not just blindly accepted them because that's what they have been taught.

Personal

When Christians are asked a difficult question about the reasons for Christian faith, a common response is to offer to send an email link, book or video. When the Christian cannot give a satisfactory personal answer (often to a basic question), the inquiry is referred to another person, usually a paid religious professional, and the impact of personal faith and experience is lost.

If faith is well-grounded, ordinary people should be able to express in their own words what and why they believe.

Increasingly, Christians (particularly evangelicals) are regarded as un-thinking. Answers should give evidence of personal intelligent thought.

Training

The mission of the church – and individual members of the church – is to make disciples. But most training in the church is academic on issues like Bible history, big ideals or small nuances.

Training should be practical, like training for customer service in business, including actual apprenticeship, role playing and case studies on how to explain Christian faith and practice and how to answer the real questions people are asking.

Need more practice with each other in order to get ready for personal contact with people of other persuasions, to sharpen ability to converse with them. Sunday School and youth groups should train in church in practical ways for real effect, not just to please parents by teaching sound doctrine. Need to be well versed enough on basic spirit topics to be at ease and persuasive in conversations with outsiders.

2. Conversation

Millennials and GenZs have lost trust in institutions (family, government, media, church, etc.) and are not inclined to submit and follow their advice. They want to discuss and dream together about how things can be made better.

Respect

The predominant form of Christian communication in the past has been in the form of preaching, and to a large degree it characterizes Christian attitituide.

Millennials are very adverse to know-it-all and holier-than-thou attitudes. They believe everyone deserves respect and that all options should be respected.

People know that no one has all the answers from God because there are over hundreds of different denominations today, each group (or at least each type) believing that they are right, and others wrong, in their understanding of God and the Bible.

The effective way to communicate the gospel, especially with Millennials and Gen Zs, is through respectful conversations and discussions. Evening spiritual matters, there are things Christians can learn from unbelievers.

Genuine

To make disciples, Christians must walk the talk. There are too many examples of hypocrites, and this has severely damaged the church. Saying one thing but doing another can do more harm than good.

Generally, Christians should listen more and talk less. Christian witness is greatly improved when there is good understanding of the other person's background and thinking.

Inviting and accepting unbelievers (as opposed to holy huddle), helps convey the idea that church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.

Discovery

Increasingly, people are growing up with little or no spiritual background. In conversations, Christians should not assume that others know the basics of Christian faith.

The tone of good conversation is that two or more people are discovering things together about a topic. One person should not take a commanding position unless it is clear that the others want it that way.

Merely unloading information and convictions is not enough. Content and presentation should be enticing and should encourage continued exploration, not closure.

3. Bible

The Bible has lost credibility and authority among most people in the Twin Cities today. It's not sufficient to say to unbelievers 'because the Bible says so.' In fact, that response is more likely to arouse hostility and drive people away. Understanding and respect for the Bible needs to be carefully rebuilt.

Role

Many people – maybe most people – think Christianity comes from the Bible. Actually, the Bible comes from Christianity.

Christianity comes from the birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

People became Christians before the Christian part of the Bible – the New Testament – was even written.

The Bible is a collection of books written by men, God-inspired, but not to be worshipped. It keeps Christianity from fragmenting into various philosophies over time.

Today popular for people to make their own designer religion, but the purpose of the Bible is to keep us on track with God's message through Jesus.

Old vs. New

In the minds of most people, the Bible is a single unified book and every passage is to be taken as literally as any other passage.

Most people don't understand that the main message of the Old Testament (law) is replaced by the message of the New Testament (grace). Without knowing this, people find many contradictions and discrepancies in the Bible and do not believe the Bible is accurate and truthful.

Most of the unbelievability problems – the big stumbling blocks to Christian faith – are from the Old Testament.

It was man who decided to bind the Old Testament and New Testment together inside a single cover. There is no indication that this was God's idea.

The Old Testament is about how God dealt with the ancient Jewish people. The New Testament is about how God deals with everyone today. This is a huge difference that needs to be made clear.

Interpretation

For most people in the Twin Cities today, the Bible has little or no relevance to their lives. A Christian today should learn to explain it in a way that makes it become relevant and authoritative .

Cus Bible says so

When multiple interpretations of scripture are possible within guidelines of basic hermeneutics, close the interpretation that it is most sensible and accord with people's actual experience.

Be willing to say I don't know and relegate to unimportant. Doesn't matter. Not an important issue. Focus on what clear, leave some unanswered.

Lose creditibity for today if wrong in the past, use against us if not interpret accurately.

But not the basic of Christianity anyway. Jesus birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection and changed lives.

Rationale. Often conflicting. Doesn't end the doubt.

Lose creditibity for today if wrong in the past, use against us if not interpret accurately.

Central message

Confusion. Cling to old.

Unintelligible. Words with meaning. Code words. Love it on the inside, but not good for growth.

4. Community

Jesus said we should be known by our love, but sadly we are known more today as people of intolerance, judgment and hypocrisy, a shrinking subculture identified with the past.

How feel

Not necessarily biggest and best, but how people feel. Not performance.

Involvement

How people feel, not what know

Relationships

Acceptance

Not judgmental

Too much paid staff

Bureaucracy

Decision-making

Risks

Leadership

Other churches, silos

Not just hold the fort, grow

Building leaders

Bold, not timid

More data

Too much paid staff, staff does it

Pastors take more time understand world of laymen.

Technology

Online streaming

First visit web site

Stage performance

Communication

Efficiency, busy

5. Diversity

Millennials and GenZs are very adverse to bigotry, and they sense it instantly. A church may say it is tolerant and accepting of other people, but the young generation just looks around to see if that is really true.

Age

Youth

Race

Place

Place in life. Affluence.

Segmentation

Ideas

One size doesn't fit all

6. Science

Over the last hundred or two hundred years, the American church as taken an increasingly anti-science stance towards new discoveries. A very high percent of young people today think that must choose between the Bible and science, but can't have both.

Choice

Evolution. Must make choice.

Truth

What do you say when ... ?

Tough questions

Considerable attention needs to be given to the above issues – regarding both theology and communication – so that clear and compelling answers can be given for the tough questions.

Millennials demand direct answers. No more dodging. If you can't answer satisfactorily, it implies to them that you have no answer or, even worse, that you haven't thought about it.

Church Scouts is about data, and thus scouts can identify tough questions being asked by unbelievers today, but it is beyond the scope of this site to give theological answers.

However, a group of local theologians, pastors and Christian workers are wrestling with the questions identified in this site and are formulating the kind of contemporary answers needed today. They will be making suggestions and giving examples in a website called Christian Thought. Watch this space for news about it's launch.

Coming soon

From Street Interviews, surveys and general conversations, the Christian Thought site will identify the major questions being asked today by Twin Cities Millennials and will propose coherent answers and/or links.