Churches Should Stop Trying to Be Cool

    Six years ago I moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta. I loved my church in L.A. and wasn’t ready to give it up. This was the first time in my life that I really had to search for a church. After a year and half of “church-hopping,” I found my home. Just like my L.A. church, it is artsy, addresses important issues of faith (even the hard ones), has great community and feels smaller than it actually is.

    Did you notice something there? I didn’t mention what the pastors were wearing, the up-and-coming worship leader or the fair trade organic coffee. Now, you should know that I really appreciate a good cup of coffee. However, though these things can make for beautiful extras, the core of the church is not in these details.

    Many churches, in response to young people leaving the pews, are focusing heavily on becoming more relevant. They are focusing on the details, trying to follow trends in social media, music, fashion or coffee, while leaving the big picture blurry.

    The early church looked a little different:


    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And all who believed were together and had all things in common… breaking bread in their homes… praising God and having favor with all  people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42, 44, 46-47, ESV)

    The early church was focused on the big-picture gospel, the true story that united them in love. My hope for the Church today is that we can be a picture of that love by embracing authenticity, honesty and community.

    • Authenticity: One thing that I love about the body of Christ is that we are unique. My church in L.A. was artsy with high production value. Contemporary and street dancers shared the stage, honing their craft each week. A film team produced shorts that could easily show on bigger screens in Hollywood. My church in Atlanta is artsy in a laid-back way, hosting writing groups and discussions about the theology of art. Churches should be true to what they are, instead of caring about what is cool.
    • Honesty: Understanding the Bible in our nuanced world is hard, and a church teaching that pretends to know it all would make me want to run. A church that cares more about figuring it out in open discussion is one of great honesty. I’ve often heard my pastor open to the weekly text and admit, “This is a tough passage. I don’t know the answer, but let’s wrestle through it together.”
    • Community: What I love about both churches I’ve mentioned is that they are big, but they feel small because of great community. The early church not only met for teaching, but also for dinner. Sharing life together means being there for each other in celebrations and sadness. This is what makes the church attractive to those who don’t believe yet.

    These simple values are far more important to me than whatever a church deems “in” and tries to be for a time. When the church looks like a group of believers sharing, talking and living in love, the world takes notice.

    Kate Hilderbrandt
    I am addicted to potential. I live in Atlanta, GA, where I work as Innovation Manager for The Mission Society, and spend a great deal of time drinking coffee and asking questions that move people toward their dreams. I am a certified professional coach who loves working with female entrepreneurs, discovering life-giving rhythms together to craft a life that works. Twitter: IG:


    1. This doesn’t mean churches should be completely isolated from culture though, because it is still out there, and teens know about it now, more than ever. I agree that some churches become worldly in an attempt to keep its members, but instead, they just lose more members, this time the God-fearing ones that fear what their “church” has turned into. Maybe become a little more culturally relevant – not the kind with their heads under a rock and sing hymns 24/7 – but the core should still be there, just more solidly integrated with a fresher outlook.

      If this comment didn’t make sense, feel free to reply and I’ll clarify. Even I’m a little confused by my own post, but I can’t figure out how to make it better, so that’s that. 😛

    2. THANK YOU for this! I’m so sick of churches trying to be cool, especially when trying to get teens to come to church. I’m really sick of youth group being more about hanging out and playing games rather than learning about God and His Word, which is why my family left our last church.

      • Churches should be making efforts to get teens to come to church.. After all, they are the future. And if your past Church’s youth group was more about hanging out and playing games rather than learning about God, then I think you made a good decision leaving that church.. I’m sure there is a better, more committed church out there for you!

    3. Honestly your church sounds really cool! I’m a Northern Irish Presbyterian so it’s very traditional here! I love the mix we have between “serious issues” and the more fun stuff. So I help run a holiday bible club and we do play games and make it fun but also get the message of God and Jesus to them. One of my favourite parts of a service is the music and we have a great mix between more upbeat modern songs and the classics with the organ.
      Being from Northern Ireland where religion is a massive issue here it’s fantastic to find a church with the right balance.

    4. My church had the problem of deciding whether or not to put big flashy colorful lights a fairly traditional sanctuary… Without asking the congregation first! Thankfully, they did not succeed, and our self respect and beams of wood are still intact!

    5. I do not agree with this at all.. The church that I attend is maybe two years old and I LOVE it. Yes, I am only 20 years old, but my family comes with me and they love it as well. Our church does offer coffee and doughnuts every Sunday, our pastors are all under the age of 50, they do dress casually, AND they use real life examples that people in my age group and older can relate to. However, they ALSO read straight from the bible – they’re not teaching us anything different from any other church. The word of God is their main focus and that is why I love it so much. They make reading the bible so much easier for people my age who do not understand it as well. We have a live band that we worship along with, and we sing contemporary songs that you would hear on 101.9 and other Christian stations. And our church has only been growing – None of our older members have left or complained.. Our church (Candeo) is truly beautiful and is helping every one of us grow in our walk with Christ! As long as we’re putting God first, does it really matter what differences our churches have?

    6. The church should never be completely isolated from culture or indifferent about drawing new people in. God is a creative God, and we should always be creative because we are spiritual beings. If a church isn’t involved in both creating and engaging culture, it’s not doing its job. I’m TOTALLY not against churches being creative, having great worship or dance, art, etc, I’m just saying that it’s not cool when it’s only an attempt to be cool or a ploy to get people in the door.

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