General Secretary Nora Sanders wonders how much the church is willingly to waive in order to welcome new generations.

A sign in a store which says "Free Entry" and has an arrow pointing to the left.
Credit: Karim Manjra, Unsplash
Published On: November 29, 2019
Always, as we step into this time of Advent, I find lifelong memories of this season coming back to me. Some of my earliest and warmest memories are of Sunday school concerts and Christmas preparations in our home.

As Christmas celebrations and preparations become increasingly secular in our society (and I confess to loving so much of this too!) I wonder how to share the joy surrounding that holy infant in a manger (and all that follows) with generations of people who have never experienced church as I know it.

Others in the General Council Office are thinking about these things too, and they have produced another set of beautiful Advent Unwrapped resources
Churches aren’t the only ones trying to figure out how to share something we hold precious with new generations. This year, the Art Gallery of Ontario came up with the idea of annual passes that are heavily discounted for people over 25 and free for everyone younger. This is a radical change from the previous way of doing business, and they have had over 100,000 people sign up for annual passes in the few months since this began.

In an interview on the CBC this week, the director of the art gallery said that with all the new members, many from a much younger demographic, they are making changes in their plans for exhibitions to provide shows and formats that will be more interesting to young people.

I found this so interesting.
It got me wondering… is there some simple thing that we could think of that would enable us to quickly connect with a new, larger, group of people, especially young people? And if they came, what might we offer them to make sure that what we are doing was actually interesting for them? How open are we to the transformation that new people, and new generations, would bring?

It may not be as simple as a free membership, since we don’t charge membership fees, but no doubt we do have other barriers that get in the way of new people finding out what the church is all about.

As my colleague Rob Dalgleish, executive director of EDGE put it, “what is the price of admission (to church) for young people that prevents them from joining? And are we willing to waive that fee?"

Something to ponder at this time of year, when one of the central stories of our faith is celebrated so broadly in our society. Something to ponder at this time of year, when the key message of one of the central stories of our faith can get buried in extravagant secular joy.

May we be both challenged and blessed as we journey through Advent towards the celebration of our Saviour’s birth.


—Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada. 
This message was originally sent to subscribers to the General Secretary's letter, "Note from Nora." Subscribe here.