One day, I was walking in a cool and artsy inner-city neighborhood and was handed a little flyer card not once, not twice, but thrice, in a span of a block by dudes from a church promoting their monthly ‘parachute into the neighborhood’ service. I knew who it was so I could see through the bait and switch, “hey, wanna check out a cool band?”

The line nearly worked. In a world where people don’t have any recollection of church (because they’ve never been), a random band playing for free is enticing. The young woman I was walking with happily took the card overruling my silent disdain and curiously told me,

“I love checking out new bands.”

She thought the church name was ironic band name. She was a tad confused and a bit disappointed when I said, “that’s actually a church service,” I had to back peddle a bit, “but it might be cool….”

Who was I kidding? If there is one thing churches struggle with it’s being cool and writing innovative music.

The sad part of the whole exercise in futility, of two worlds completely missing each other, were the young and sincere churchgoers committing to their leaflet campaign and cool band ploy. They thought it had a chance at working.

In the very least the effort was a waste of volunteer hours and money. At worst it further alienates churches trying to remain relevant in a world they can’t figure out. This thinking recycles a paradigm of mission that assumes raising the bar on attractive services will solve dwindling attendance.

A once a month, young, hip service in a neighborhood nobody lives in is a recipe for a slow death, not longevity.

They’re not alone. Treating the repackaged service as the central means to garner ‘success’ is the quintessential response for churches struggling to address generational gaps. What they fail to realize is that the entire paradigm needs shifting.

It’s not a matter of finding the right mix of ‘cool’ to re-attract lapsed Christians. It’s not about parachuting into an eclectic neighborhood to prove you can jam with the hipsters. It’s about meeting the Kingdom already at work and alerting others to that unfolding reign.

For that to pan out that once a month church needs to call its excited youth generation, and others, to move in and ‘incarnate’ in the space they want to reach. That’s a call to the long haul.