My daughter and I went to church together last Sunday and afterward, we talked about different churches we’ve visited and what she liked about them. She proceeded to recall…no, not the choir, not the children’s sermons, not the theology and not the people. What she remembered most of all was the color of the walls.
In one church, she disliked the stark whiteness of the walls; too bright and loud. In another, she remembered it had been gray outside the day we visited, and the walls inside seemed gray, too. In one church, she said the walls had a warm, golden glow. That one was her favorite.
I was flummoxed by her recollection of the walls and how important that seemed to be. Her descriptions hinted at her desire to feel comforted by the sanctuary space.
I’ve learned over the years that my 15 year old doesn’t want to be questioned much when she visits a church; she doesn’t want to wear a dress, she wants to stay seated during the Passing of the Peace, and she wants to be allowed to do her cross-stitching during the sermon. She willingly attends, even though she confesses she doesn’t really believe in God. And being offered a donut after worship may cause her to come back the following week.
I asked if there is anything else she notices in different worship services. She noted that one pastor we frequently visit preaches a “much shorter sermon” than most, and she is able to follow it easily.
Oh, and there is the hymn singing. She complained about the church we had just come from. “Those hymns,” she said, “were mumble-worthy!”
“What is mumble-worthy?” I asked.
“Mom. Did you hear anyone actually singing? They were all mumbling. They didn’t know those songs!”
Evy doesn’t have a strong preference for classical or contemporary or Taize hymn singing. But she does want to be in a church where people actually sing because they know the songs!
We have so much to learn from the young. We oldsters make so many assumptions about what they want. We put them into boxes marked X and Y and yes, Evy’s “Generation Z”. And then we frantically try to deliver what we think they want, because we imagine the future of the church belongs to the young.
But maybe the future of the church belongs to us. Maybe we should be paying attention to how the color of the walls makes us feel. Maybe we should be wearing what makes us comfortable and choosing hymns that we can sing with gusto. Maybe we should have the audacity to keep showing up even when we don’t believe.
Maybe if our kids were to see us having a spirit-filled, lively worship experience, they would pay attention and wonder about it.
And maybe, in wondering, they would be led on their own path to Someone who is truly praise-worthy!