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Church-shopping? More like Church-dating

by Kate Fritz

I’m not your typical shopper. My mom always compare my method to a surgical strike—I pick a place, go in, browse quickly, find what I am looking for, and leave. I do not dally. I don’t really shop, per say. I usually go into a store knowing certain parameters for what I want to get and if nothing fits them, well, I just leave empty-handed and try the next store.

If only “church-shopping” were more like actual shopping. Instead, my experiences more closely resembled dating. When I first moved to Chicago, I made a list of qualities I’d like to have in my worship community, much as one imagines a list for a potential partner. I grew up in the Lutheran tradition, but I was open to other denominations. I wanted a church that looked at the gospels the way I did, with an emphasis on the social justice call of Jesus’ ministry. I wanted to see a balance of tradition with creative and innovative ways to participate in the church and the greater community. I wanted a diverse congregation, preferably with some other young adults, but not necessarily. I wanted music – good music (and don’t get me started on how to define that!). I had always wanted to be part of a big church with a large following and family vibe; a community!

Ultimately, I found all of this and more when I walked into the doors of St. Luke’s. I ended up joining the congregation – a first time choice for me and a big step as a pastor’s kid. But why? Did my list really draw me into those doors and help my decision to stay? I had quite a few “first dates” with churches that met all the criteria, but just didn’t fit right. What made it click for me? That was the main question asked at the Sects and the City conference. What draws young adults, like myself, into protestant mainline churches and what gets them to stay and become more actively involved?

I was excited to attend the conference, partially to share my own experiences, but mainly to hear what others were saying on the topic and try to quantify that je ne sais quoi that made St. Luke’s stand out for me. The conference was set up in a lecture-reflection format, with an opening plenary, worship, and panel discussion sandwiching breakout sessions for talking in depth with smaller groups. The attendees represented congregations from across the state, across denominations, and across age groups.

In my small group, I was one of a handful of young adults, and we were called upon to share our experiences with “church-shopping” and what we like most about the churches we are in and what we didn’t like about other churches. To actually tell my story to a room full of strangers was incredibly powerful, and it helped me to see more clearly what I appreciate most about my faith journey and having joined St. Luke’s – I have found a place that accepts me and desires my participation in its community. After the other young adults shared similar sentiments, our group realized that young adult ministry is not about catering to some arbitrary age group. Young adult ministry is about ministry to all. It is about having an authentic, meaningful worship community. That is the most any church can offer, and the rest is up to the je ne sais quoi experienced by the individual. The rest is up to the spirit.

Read the transcripts of the opening plenary remarks and the sermon. (Check them out – they’re super interesting and informative!!!)

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