Responding to “A Call from the CRC’s Young Adults”

Vantage Point
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In the June 2011 Banner, Chelsey Munneke summarizes a discussion held by passionate young people, which offers a “diagnosis of the disconnect” young people feel with the Christian Reformed Church (“A Call from the CRC’s Young Adults”). Ms. Munneke pointedly asks for churches to make room for the legitimate gifts young people have to offer. Well said, Chelsey.

When I ask them why they’ve left the CRC, their answers tell of an even bigger disconnect.

However, the sad but true context that Munneke writes from is that there has been a mass exodus of young people out of the denomination for some time. As a 20-something church planter in West Michigan, my vocation regularly leads me into conversations with young people who’ve given up on the CRC. When I ask them why, their answers tell of an even bigger disconnect. Indeed, few young people have left because of doctrinal standards or the gray Psalter Hymnal or a lack of young adult representation in leadership.

The reason that 20-somethings often give me as to why they left? “It just wasn’t for me.”

There’s a lot behind such an answer. Some people report that their home church was for their parents, not them, while many others flatly reply that while growing up they found church boring, unimaginative, or irrelevant.

You may be appalled by such reasoning. Surely those aren’t legitimate reasons for walking out on church? And you’re right, those are terrible reasons for leaving. But that’s also reality.

My observation is that young people who leave the CRC are still likely to join a church, just not a Christian Reformed one. In my area, many choose Ada Bible, Mars Hill, or Resurrection Life. Say what you will about those churches, but they are soaking up all the young adults we drive away.

However, there is hope on the horizon. For a couple generations our denomination emphasized the uniformity of all Christian Reformed congregations. During the time when people appreciated traditional church architecture, liturgy, and music, the CRC blossomed. Today people’s tastes are much more diverse.

Some people go to church intensely curious about what the Bible says about families and other felt needs (Ada Bible), others go to church to learn about social justice (Mars Hill), still others go for concert-quality music (Resurrection Life). Together, the churches I mention garner the largest “market share” of young people in my area. They meet the diverse tastes of the latest generation.

And the hope for the CRC? A new church planting movement is beginning to swell across the United States and Canada. These new church upstarts intentionally reflect the culture in which they are set, yet are counter-cultural enough to speak the gospel into young lives.

We may be a little behind the trends, but by focusing our efforts on starting new churches for new generations, we ensure the succession of our distinctively Reformed denomination through the years.

About the Author

Rev. Dirk VanEyk graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary and accepted a call from Brookside CRC, Grand Rapids, Mich., to plant Encounter Church in Kentwood, Mich. At the time of publication, the church had begun holding worship services.

See comments (6)


If we truly desire to reach these young people let's put our money where our hearts are and fully fund non-traditional church plants that focus on reaching these young adults. We may not be comfortable with a House Church but if it can effectively ground people in the Word of God and provide an authentic worship community, let's support them prayerfully and finanacially. We may have to let go of our traditional church planting ideas and methods but we know these young people are important to God, let's show them they are important to us.

Thanks for this article. There is never enough discussion about our Commission, and consequently, the struggles and successes encountered by saints helping to gather sheep.

I just deleted a long (and possibly offensive) post in favor of another long (and hopefully less-offensive) one: In light of where God is leading us to take his Gospel, are we to be less concerned with the membership levels in our own denomination "so that by all possible means [we] might save some." [1 Cor. 9.22]?

I understand this opens up the hermeneutics-into-methodology can of worms, but isn't that what needs clarification? Within my limited role in working with God in his Gospel, if I can help more people see Christ by wearing black-rimmed designer glasses and preaching in an Old Navy t-shirt, I'll do it this Sunday. Will I preach a non-eternal Hell? Probably not. So, what draws youth today - postmodern environment or postmodern theology? It seems that the first - to a degree - is inevitable as we live and work contemporaneous to the youth we hope to disciple. It seems the the second must be avoided - the basis of our message as unchanging as our God. If we do not understand what is essential to our message - what we preach and how we preach it – then we will not know what is permanent, what is passing, and how to negotiate the difference.

It is one thing to change the method to enhance the unchanging message. It is another entirely to allow the message to be conformed to the method. •• But, which process are youth responding to? •• I am concerned that, without firmly understanding the outcome of our Commission, we will be too quick to congratulate ourselves at making "members" for our denomination instead of "disciples" for His Kingdom.

Curious what your measure of "soaking up young adults" is. Is it attendance, or decipleship? Sadly, I don't believe you can "intentionally reflect culture", and yet be counter-cultural. Your whole definition is based on culture rather than Christ.

How about we build churches that intentionally reflect the gospel in which they are set, and speak to the culture in which we are surrounded?

This article makes it seem like to only place for young adults in the CRC is in church plants. I think it is dismissive of the point of view of Ms. Munneke. I think this is indicative of how adults in the CRC view youth today.

Ms. Munneke calls for adults in the CRC to disciple their youth and to utilize the gifts of those youth in the church. Dirk responds with an article about church planting.

This doesn't make sense to me. The reason the CRC is 'not home' for 20 somethings is that there is often nothing for them there keeping them plugged in. When someone graduates high school they are essentially asked to sit back and wait until they are 35 to utilize their gifts in the church. (How many college age elders and deacons are out there?)
I think church planting is important, but why should church planters spend their resources on bringing disenfranchised youth back into the church when they could spend their time bringing new believers into the fold? The established churches should work to utilize the gifts of our youth to keep them connected to the church. Ms. Munneke should not be so easily dismissed.

I would have left the CRC years ago if my High School Art teacher had not invited me to her church. I was looking for a church that had three things:
1.) Music I could feel
2.) Testimonies from congregation members that were authentic and vulnerable
3.) Good preaching that challenged me

I think most younger folks who leave do so because of style and a perception of a life-changing gospel among the members of the CRC. Too often we have as a denomination tried to set up our own separate cultures rather than engage the cultures we are within. See the Nairobi Statement on Worship to see how worship can both reflect and challenge culture.

Please for God's sake do not put market share and churches in the same sentence. You insinuate we left because the CRC was boring or for our parents. I left because I needed to figure things out for myself. I didn't want to be CRC only because I was raised and schooled in it. And that would have been the only reason.
I have no idea what would draw young adults to a Protestant Denomination that is mostly comprised of Dutch people.

I lose respect for churches that integrate cultural trends in hopes of getting a younger audience.