the end of axis
Sunday July 02nd 2006, 9:26 am
Filed under: church, emerging church

i find this very sad. hard for me to see it in a good way, really. i’m all for age-group integration, really; and it’s great that the willow leadership says axis has influenced the rest of the church to the point where the regular services are more like axis. but somehow it would feel different if the leadership of axis had decided this, rather than the leadership of the church deciding axis doesn’t need to exist anymore.

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I notice that you don’t mention being surprised! You know more people there than I do and this no surprise to me. I also feel the tension between the trying to break-down life stage ministry and more wholistic ministry.

My only interest with Willow these days’comes via people I know on staff, and less about what they are doing programatically. OR that’s what I’d like for it to be. For me Willow has often been the target of my cynicism, or provided fuel for my own ego. All that to say, I’ll be disappointed along with you. Hopefully this won’t be a nightmare for the staff.

Comment by riddle 07.02.06 @ 12:06 pm

I would also hope its a smooth transition for Axis participants.

Comment by riddle 07.02.06 @ 12:08 pm

interesting, mark, while you and i both mention the value of merging age groups, that doesn’t seem to be a motivator in this situation. inside sources and scot’s report of gene appel’s announcement make no mention of that as a factor.

Comment by marko 07.02.06 @ 12:26 pm

It’s sad to see a church stop doing what so many others are considering starting… I really don’t know what to think about this and wonder if this is another example of the idea that Kimball talks about in Emerging churches when he says that an “emergent” church cannot function inside a church that is more modern. His argument that the principles are so fundamentally different is discouraging to me, but perhaps its true…

Comment by David Alexander 07.02.06 @ 12:55 pm

I was there; Gene Appel made that very clear. Being “together” was an intergenerational thing, and he effused about that. I’ve edited my own post to make that clear.

Comment by Scot McKnight 07.02.06 @ 8:13 pm

thanks for the clarification, scot. makes me feel a little bit better about it. i still wish there was a way for them to be intergenerational and ‘together’ without dismantling a ministry that was so important to so many people. interesting how churches assume it’s the younger generation who needs to bear the brunt of merging generations. would be wonderful to hear of a church who says, “you know, our services have become so similar, we’re just going to discontinue what we’re doing and join you.”

Comment by marko 07.02.06 @ 9:08 pm

I maybe was a little too direct Marko on your post. Sorry. It became apparent to me as the day went on that people were not seeing what I was saying about cancelling service but not the ministry — and I should have written more about what Gene said. He really spent a long time with the reasons for the change — change, together, contribution, and other ideas — and I shortened it mostly to an announcement.

Comment by Scot McKnight 07.02.06 @ 9:36 pm

Marko- I was sitting in church last night watching a bunch of 50+ year olds lead worship and then a 50+ year old pastor preach. I think if you asked any of them they would say that they care about the 20something crowd but as Marshall McCluhan says “The Medium is the Message” in this case they were sending a pretty specific message by presenting a service that was only run by 50+ year olds. My issue with Willow was not that they cancelled Axis. The problem for years has been that Axis people don’t make a transition to the big church when they are to old for the Axis ministry. As we see less and less 20somethings in our churches we need to start asking ourselves what are we doing that turns them off? Do we not understand their culture? Are we not relevant? I agree that age/stage services are not the best thing but when a church doesn’t have the insight to create something that can reach that group in its “main” services what else should we do?

Comment by Lars Rood 07.02.06 @ 11:05 pm

This is a great convo going on here.

I think the “thing” that is appealing in groups geared toward college-age/20-somethings is that it’s a specific ministry that is directed toward them and their lifestyle. During most “main” services there are lots of talks of marriage and how to treat your children and spouse and most young adults and kids fresh out of high school aren’t going through that yet. Most people are most comfortable when they are around people in similar situations/lifestyles.

Regarding the low attendance in 20-somethings; I’ve been watching 20-something ministries for about 10 years and I think it’s just the transition from teen to adult. The kids/young adults finally have the power to make their own decisions and those that were being forced to go to church, as teens, now have a right to sleep in or go to the beach if they want. The other factor is that their schedules aren’t being mandated for them anymore. Their time is now being consumed by work, college, homework and friends and they are learning the art of time-management. :)

Whether cultural relevance is going on in churches or not, young adults still make the choice of being there. I’ve seen lives changed without cultural relevance and I’ve seen lives lost WITH it…

Comment by jen }i{ 07.03.06 @ 2:46 am

Jen- I think you have some good thoughts about that. You are right that the 20something person has freedom and choices. But, why is it that in “main” services we target specific groups who have kids, mortgages, spouses etc. Is there a reason why we say that those are the topics that are “most important?” I do find it a bummer that we tend to use examples and illustrations that are not relevant to that age group.

I think if we are truly honest too most churches realize that the 20something age group is the group that is most expendable. When they are in our Student Ministries we are still reaching out to their parents who are part of our financial base through their tithe but once they are no longer in their parents homes they become a big body of people who are not really supporting the church. I think most churches recognize that they have to meet the needs of their biggest financial supporters. I’m not saying that’s right either but its just the truth.

Elder boards, committee leaders, pastors, deacons…..most of these groups are not made up of anyone in their 20’s.

One more thing. I’m not in my 20’s so I’m not trying to stand up for my group. I just recognize that we have lost that group and most churches don’t really care and only give them lip service.

Comment by Lars Rood 07.03.06 @ 11:08 am

I’m right there with you Lars.

“But, why is it that in “main” services we target specific groups who have kids, mortgages, spouses etc.”

Money. Sadly, I believe it all comes down to money. I believe most churches target the demographic with the most potential to give and continue in making a lifestyle out of it. Parents are more apt to tithe, knowing that supporting the church will benefit their children/teens.

I’ve seen the same thing in churches where the leaders are trying to reach out to youth, only to bring in their parents…for the money.

I can’t wait for the day when every church becomes a place of refuge for the lost, broken and hurting and the “suits” don’t rule the lives of those they know nothing about.

Comment by jen }i{ 07.03.06 @ 10:52 pm

Here is a link to a letter from the Axis site written by Gene Appel regarding the changes in the Axis Ministry at Willow Creek.

Comment by John Carlson 07.07.06 @ 12:53 am

Hmmm. I hope money isn’t the issue. From the viewpoint of being on staff at a medium-sized church, it is extremely difficult to reach multiple groups of people in one service. Of course, that’s why some have tried alternative services.

While our church desires and struggles to reach the 20somethings and even our youth in the main services (we used to have a different Sunday morning service with a goal of focusing on them, but it tapped our resources to where everything suffered), we have decided we should try to do two things: one, make certain we feed and challenge the people who are already coming. Two, strive to do that in a way which is welcoming to the outsider from our community, which happens to average out to a married couple in their 30s-40s with kids, etc. 20somethigns and youth and everyone is important to us as a multigenerational church, but God has placed us a particular place where particular people come. Therefore, we strive to reach that general group in ways that are accessible as much as possible by multiple generations.

It’s not about money. It’s about where God places your chruch. A dear friend of my family is pastor of a church in rural Ohio. We have had discussions about church style and who you are reaching, but his population will always be farming America. It’s where God put that church.

So, I hope it’s not about money but about doing your best to live where God plants you.

Comment by Maurice 07.09.06 @ 8:27 pm

[…] I read on Scot McKnight and Marko’s blog about the announcement this past week regarding the ending of the Axis worship gathering at Willowcreek Community Church. I don’t know all the behind the scenes discussions and what led to the decision to stop the gathering, so I cannot make any guesses about what were the actual reasons behind the reasons. I have talked with some of the Axis staff throughout the years, so I have a general understanding of the history and changes made since it started. I even wrote a chapter specifically about Axis in the Emerging Worship book. But whatever the reasons for shutting down Axis, I can say, that from an outside perspective it saddened my heart - but I was not at all surprised. I am surprised it didn’t end sooner actually. […]

Pingback by The UnChurch » Blog Archive » Style vs. Philosophy/Worldview 08.18.06 @ 2:49 pm

Dear friend,
I visited your web-page and really I was touched with it. Brother!!! I am from a far country, Kenya and please I request God and you to open ways to Join hands and to be closer and serve the lord. Please I would like to hear if that can happen. I have 3 young churches here and brother please i would like to welcome you and see what God is doing to our Nation of Kenya. Hope to hear from you please.
Pastor Onesmus.

Comment by Pastor Onesmus 03.12.07 @ 5:07 am

Dear servant of God,
I visited your web page and I was touched. please brother I amd a Kenyan and I request you and God to Join hands with you and the dorr to Kenya is open to you pleas, Hope to hear if that can happen.
Pastor Onemsus.

Comment by Pastor Onesmus 03.12.07 @ 5:09 am

I think this is just more proof that our churches are failing miserably at being relevant to twenty somethings. It’s no wonder so many are leaving the church for good. It’s my opinion that this move works against our efforts to connect an emerging generation to the God that created them. Not surprised thought…McChurch as usual I guess.

Comment by RevrendShafty 05.17.07 @ 5:40 pm

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