Why do children find the church boring

What young people think about the church - that's exactly what Bishop Hein of the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen Waldeck wanted to know and invited 50 young people from his entire church area to Kassel (for the Youth & Church hearing). He wanted to listen and learn, so Bishop Hein opened the day together and assured the young people that he wanted to take what was said very seriously. And then exactly what the bishop wanted happened: the young people said what they really thought about the church and there was no sparing with criticism and open words. This was moderated methodically and creatively by the specialist for religion, theology and spirituality of EKKW Johannes Meier, so that all young people had the opportunity to participate. Some young people had brought their criticism and their wishes for the church with them in the form of a poster and presented this in a large group, some things were also worked out and lively discussed on this day. For this purpose, a quantitative picture of the mood on the subject of “Youth & Church” was presented, which was determined in the form of a questionnaire from 433 young people over the last six weeks.

In summary, here are some results of the day:

A central criticism was: Church services are boring, old-fashioned and out of date, the sermons have little relevance to the lives of young people and are therefore not interesting. The church has too much tradition and too little courage to innovate. And: Church is mainly perceived through the service and youth work is only seen as a church to a limited extent, diakonia almost not at all. But what does that mean? Church ties are a type of communication that is shaped by the interplay of closeness and distance. The overcoming of distance happens above all through the identification with topics and people, in addition to the current life-world and biographical experiences. If we now assume that most Protestant churches have a church identification centered on worship, but that many young people identify with the worship service neither thematically nor with the people responsible, then the dilemma becomes clearly visible. The results of the quantitative survey were somewhat more positive overall, half of the young people surveyed (from youth work and possibly religious instruction) think that the church is important to them, 37% say that they want to belong to the church and 76% want theirs Let children be baptized later. It becomes much more difficult when it comes to the worship services already mentioned. A large majority of the young people want modern, open, spontaneous and lifelike church services in which they also have the opportunity to participate. They want more opportunities to contribute their thoughts and ideas. Not everything has to change because they are not the only ones who take part in the service, but especially with regard to music and language, the young people want changes and a say. Furthermore, the church was attested to have an image problem. Many young people complain that in the context of their life (school, peer group, etc.) the church is either not perceived at all or is perceived as out of date. This has to do with the living environment itself (e.g. social media) but also with the missing (already mentioned) identification points, as J. puts it in a nutshell: “The Church has none of the questions that really concern me and my friends Answer. ”According to the young people, the church should be closer to the people and do more for them.

Moments of identification and criticism

One topic that ran through the day and that surprised me in its massiveness was the criticism of pastors. Many feel that their pastors do not understand or take them seriously when they want to get involved. Many good experiences and moments of identification from youth work are put into perspective by these sometimes bad experiences. "My pastor is simply not authentic" or "My pastor preaches as if she herself does not believe what she says" were some examples of the young people. This is strongly reminiscent of the “Hattie Study”, which sees the role of teachers as more essential than any other reform conditions. New meeting places for pastors are urgently needed here.

What has been said is now analyzed and classified, precisely because young people in this age phase are particularly critical and also have to set themselves apart. But where is their place in our churches? How can young people identify themselves? These are some of the exciting questions that were debated at the end of the day in order to then agree on how to proceed, because Bishop Hein left no doubt that something has to change in the church so that young people can again get a higher level of identification and participation .

The hearing was prepared by the regional church councilor and head of education, Dr. Gudrun Neebe and Elke Hartmann, head of department in the department for child and youth work with a focus on fundamental issues, specialist and practical advice and concept development.

A detailed report with all the results follows.