I learned recently that the breakfast cereal industry is struggling. Sales have decreased by 30% over the last 15 years. As someone who has, a time or two in my life, lived off Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, and who still frequently enjoys a bowl of Cheerios, this news is disturbing. Don’t take away my Fruit Loops!
The industry is facing hard times in part because young adults (“millennials”) are not eating much cereal. The reason? Cereal is not convenient enough. The article I read quoted a survey:
Almost 40 percent of the millennials surveyed…said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it.
Apparently, having to put the milk and cereal away and wash a single bowl and spoon (or more likely, just put them in a dishwasher) is too much trouble. The article said this attitude should “scare…anyone who has stake in this country’s future.”
Personally, while it is baffling to me that millennials find cereal insufficiently convenient, I can’t say it really scares me. I don’t find teenagers and young adults to be any lazier than the rest of us. And besides, even if it were true, I don’t think it would do much good for me to complain about it. I try to live in the real world, and if young people find cereal to be inconvenient, well, it is what it is. But this attitude does get me thinking about the reality of convenience in the world today, and especially in the church.
Our faith has never made convenience much of a priority (that’s hard to do when you worship a guy who taught people to “take up your cross and follow” him). In the substance of Christian faith and life, easy is not really our goal. I do think, however, that when it comes to many aspects of trying to be the church, convenience is a good thing – and we should take that far more seriously than we do. We should make education programs with great content, and that are as convenient as possible. We should make giving to the church and others a priority, and make it as convenient as possible. We should made our communications as effective and convenient as possible. We are working to improve all those things at Union Church.
But I also can’t help thinking about that word “convenient” (in another life, I would be an etymologist). In its original meaning it wasn’t just a synonym for “easy.” It means, literally, “to come together” (the same roots as “convention”) and was used more like the word “suitable,” as in two things fit together well, like two puzzle pieces that come together just right.
So, making our church more convenient is exactly what we want to do. We want to help people come together with us, with each other, and with God. Sometimes that means making things “easier,” but not always. I had a teacher who used to say that if you want to learn French, it may be easier, but it doesn’t do much good to read Victor Hugo’s French language classic “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” in English.
Sometimes we can make things easier, and we when can, we should. Sometimes, though, we will have to work even harder to make things more convenient. I think that is what will work with millennials.
Now, off to my bowl of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch!
Reverend J Michael Solberg
The Union Church of Hinsdale, U.C.C.