As times change, the ways for propagation of the Gospel diversify. In churches, the generation gap between the traditionalist and the 20-30 year-olds is a very common problem. Churches are looking for alternative ways to bring back missing young people to the holy family.
“A boy called Eutychus, who was sitting by the window-sill, was overcome by deep sleep, because Paul was so long in preaching. Overwhelmed by sleep, he fell down from the third floor…”
The story's ending gives us hope, however, as the dead boy is brought back to life again.
This story from the Book of Acts illustrates the risk traditional churches face when they fail to engage with the youth of today.
New generation evangelical churches are beginning to pull in the crowds with dance music and disco lights. This is the way the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) has been working in Switzerland and it has been a great success. Uncertain about the future and desperate for guidance, young people are turning back to God.
ICF, a free church based on American evangelical fundamentalism, has been commented as one of “the most successful products” on the religious scene by the sociologist of religion, Jörg Stolz.
For some other churches concerts form the very heart of worship: the sermon no longer comes from the pulpit, but from the stage.
“The Bible is our basis, so what is changed is just the presentation, which we want to make more modern and attractive,” ICF spokesman Daniel Linder explained. Those who have never visited the church because of its out-dated image are also one of the targets.
In just eight years since its first establishment in Switzerland, the ICF has already gained 5,000 adherents. The church has a presence in 15 cities and the number of people attending its services increase by 25 per cent every year. Every weekend hordes of young ICF worshippers are attracted by the music, the discotheque lights and preachers of their own age.
As the spirituality of the young is quite different to that of adults, the ICF has managed to offer different types of meetings and events for each age group to overcome the general generation gap problems in traditional churches.
After the success of ICF, the mainstream churches in Switzerland have started to focus on the young. For about six months now, the reformed churches of Zurich have been working on a pilot project aimed precisely at the young and known as “Jugendkirche Zürich” - Zurich youth church.
“The statistics are quite clear: between 60 and 80 per cent of young people are interested in God and in religious matters. But after their confirmation, their relationship with the Church comes to an end,” says project communications manager Angela von Lerber.
The ICF has been branded a sect by some theologians, but the Fellowship is not worried by the criticism.
The free churches are establishing a hold mainly in Protestant areas of Switzerland, although they also manage to pull in a lot of Catholics. As the Pope has attended rock concerts during youth meetings, he has exerted a great influence over the young Catholics for a change.
The Catholic Synod of Zurich has also recently approved a “Church of the Young” project, which should get underway in 2006.
In June, young Swiss Catholics will have the opportunity to meet the Pope in person when he visits Bern to attend a youth meeting.