The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Andy Gustafson


Editor's note: Associate Conference Minister Andy Gustafson is on sabbatical, traveling across the country. He will be visiting United Church of Christ Justice and Witness immersion centers and mission sites and the UCC General Synod and blogging about what he sees. His posts about those sites will be posted here on His full travel blog is here :

My travels so far have shown me the good, the bad and the ugly in our churches.

The good - our churches are full of good, faithful people working for justice, loving their neighbors, shining the light and love of God into our communities and the world.

The bad - I don't see enough 30-somethings to carry the congregations forward as we all age. There appears to be a demographic cliff. Some congregations have already gone over this cliff, some are nearing it, while there is still time for others.

The ugly - I (59 years old) enjoyed the worship services I attended BUT I don't think our music has much to recommend itself to younger adults. I talked with a mother of 3 who now lives in South Carolina who I mentored as a confirmand. She is going to one of these evangelical mega-churches in part for the music.

At General Synod we have experienced worship which impels you to your feet and brings tears to your eyes. Small churches can't duplicate worship designed for 4,000 BUT there has to be lessons here. A workshop here at General Synod on Human Centered Design might help. Our design challenge is how can a small church create a worship experience which will touch the hearts of 30-something adults in such a way they will want to return and bring their friends. Human Centered Design suggests we need to spend a lot of time on research - interview people, talk to experts, etc. Then we need to create prototypes to test. And then we should find low-cost ways to try them out. I think we can do this. I think God needs us to do this, so that the church of unity, inclusiveness, justice, peace, and reconciliation can continue to change lives in the name of Jesus.

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