How do we reach a jaded generation that is moving at warp speed? Those ministering to Generation X believe the key might lie in rethinking common assumptions about church strategies and structures.

For instance, churches will need to take into account buster cynicism about hierarchies. If there is a rallying cry for Generation X, it is best captured in the words of a popular bumper sticker: "Question Authority." Some Xers do not see the suspicion of authority or institutions as necessarily a negative characteristic. "We are not against commitment, we're just cautious," says Paula Esealuka, 29, "and that's healthy."

At the California-based Xer congregation known as NewSong, founder Dieter Zander (now a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago) used the servant-leader model and, based on staff input, did away with written reports and agenda-driven meetings. Instead, NewSong staff use voice mail and weekly meetings focused on the week's most urgent events and issues. Few of the staff are desk bound; they spend most of their time among their parishioners.

This is why buster churches like NewSong are quite simple, focusing their energies on small groups and ministry teams without forgoing high-quality programming.

In addition, researcher George Barna suggests that churches focus on Socratic teaching rather than the didactic style of preaching typical among evangelicals. "Don't tell them what to believe but rather create a discussion with provocative questions that will engage them," Barna urges.

Experts say another communication device effective for reaching this generation is storytelling. Evangelist Leighton Ford, who ministers to Xers, stresses the power of narrative preaching, particularly stories focused on Jesus. The use of personal stories where the teacher makes him- or herself vulnerable is also an effective means of connecting with these young adults.

"Big budgets, big ministries, and big buildings are going to have to scale down," says evangelical futurist Tom Sine. Given Xers' low tolerance for superficiality, churches will need to back off from slick packaging of the Christian experience, predict many observers.

"Busters aren't looking for programs providing nice experiences," suggests Danny Harrell, a pastor to Xers at Park Street Church in Boston. "Instead, they long for meaningful relationships, such as with older church members who can show them, for example, what a good marriage looks like."

These observations coincide with what many experts see as an affinity among busters for the "authenticity" of the preboomer population. This may, in part, explain the phenomenal success of Billy Graham's recent youth rally in Cleveland.

One thing is clear: As Generation X takes its place as a prominent segment of this nation's population, churches will need to adjust their approaches. According to the experts, it is no longer enough to present the gospel's propositional truths. What will attract Xers, they say, is a strong, caring community of people who can be trusted.

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