Men and young people just aren't engaging consistently with the church.
People a lot smarter than me have written books on this topic, but I think there are two things the church was designed to incubate to create an effective, engaging, community.
The answer pops up in Hebrews 10:24. In the NASB, the author of Hebrews is encouraging communities of believers to push each other to "level up" in their personal relationships and community impact. It reads like this: "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds."
I feel like I've heard this phrasing and verse many times before. Recently something jumped out at me, though: love AND good deeds. I've always breezed over it, and just assumed love and good deeds were synonyms or close relatives of each other. Hebrews is a beautifully written work.
Turns out, the author of Hebrews meant what they wrote: communities of believers are supposed to intentionally strive to live out love, and, in addition, execute good deeds.
As used in the text in the Greek, "deeds" reflect business, employment, one's occupation. Someone's undertaking, an enterprise, a product or something that is accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind. "Good" points to competency and usefulness.
That's very different from "love," which reflects affection, benevolence, brotherly good will.
In the church today, we talk about love. A lot. And I would have to say that when it comes to benevolence, community, affection, and care, the church does a lot of admirable work.
But do we talk about, and more importantly, invest in, the innovative, courageous, creative act? The casting of something out of nothing, the creation of things that don't exist, entrepreneurship?
The more I hear from young people and men, they're searching for a church culture that actively supports this practical application of faith. Church can often feel like a place more focused on maintaining the traditional status quo and repairing what already exists, than blazing a new trail forward and creating what doesn't.
The good news is that the author of Hebrew's exhortation is for love AND good deeds to go together. It's not an either-or. Churches shouldn't feel that making the necessary shifts to engage young people and men in the church is faddish or pandering to a particular group. It's the original design of the church, the called-out community, to both nurture and trail-blaze simultaneously.
What might that look like? There's no algorithm or perfect formula, but here's a few, structural ways that "good deeds" can be birthed out of your church.
1. Intergenerational Partnerships - how are young people being paired with older mentors in the church in their target area of professional interest? What great art, design, business, innovation is coming out of intentionally designed intergenerational collaboration in the church? What space is provided for this?
2. Solutioneering Space - Between Sunday Services during the week, is your church curating physical space for thinktanking, brainstorming, white-boarding and community research? What businesses are formed out of the church? What organizations scaled? What books and research published? What investments made?
3. Investment - Is there a part of your church budget dedicated to spawning and accelerating people and their ideas? If someone in your church needs a micro-loan to get started, or cross-sector connections made, or other resources allotted, are those financial and human resources readily available?
Is your church doing these things? What are some challenges or barriers to designing Creative Churches that both love, and incubate good deeds?