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Archive for July, 2013

'Considering First Time Buyers' photo (c) 2011, Intel Free Press - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Recently I’ve come across some thoughtful posts from young adults about young adults and church.  What do they want/don’t want, need/ don’t need?  I commend all of these to you.

The first post, Why millennials are leaving the church  by Rachel Held Evans has provoked some great responses.  Take note of this pithy quote: “We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.”

Bottom line: a life giving connection to Jesus is what people of all ages need.  So how can we encourage people at different ages and stages in that connection?  It won’t be by “always doing what we’ve always done,” nor will it be by “throwing out everything we’ve always done.”  It will be by radical dependence on the Spirit of God, lots of listening, and humble discernment.

In Activating the Millennials, Jodi  Criaglow responds to Rachel Held Evans, and she reflects on why she stays in a congregation where most of the people of the church are older than she is.  In her words, here’s why:  “Why not find a place where I’d “fit in” better?  Because I felt a sense of responsibility to (and at times over) these people who accepted me as their family.  They plugged me in from the get-go — they quickly realized that I’m a joiner and welcomed me into the choir, invited me to start teaching Sunday school, and even elected me to Session.  (Tell me about the irony of being an “elder” to people 40 years my senior.)  But now, as I look at my participation in light of the CNN religion blog article, I have come to one very important conclusion: I stayed because I’ve had a hand in forming the discourse of that church.  It has taken me out of my comfort zone more times that I can count, but I’ve stuck my neck out and actively made the church work, both for myself and my fellow parishioners.”

In What Young People Want in Church, Amy Hanson makes similar points, and she expresses these two particularly clearly: “4. Young people are tired of having assumptions made about them
“Young people” are often seen as a commodity.  And furthermore, seen as THE commodity that will save the church.  A church is seen as thriving if it has young adults and we sometimes feel only like numbers and a bullet point in the strategic plan.  We are talked about and around and all sorts of people have ideas about what we want and what we need, most of which is wrong.  There is a pretty easy way forward.  People could ASK us what is important to us, which leads to…

5. Young people want to feel valued in the church
We want to have opportunities to serve and learn in faith communities.  But it is not as simple as keeping the existing structure of volunteer positions and leadership structure and plugging in young adults.  How about getting to know us and identifying and nurturing our gifts? ”

Are we listening, and are we taking the wisdom of the young seriously?  We’d better be.  Let’s don’t talk about and around each other.  Let’s talk and listen to each other.

Added on August 2, 2013: an article from the Washington Post entitled How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.  The writer adds a hearty AMEN! to Rachel Held Evans, et. al.

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'mister rogers display - pittsburgh airport' photo (c) 2006, Greg Dunlap - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Mr. Rogers’ sneakers

In his television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers approached children in such a gentle manner.  Except for the trolley bell, there were no bells and whistles on the show.   The tone was quiet and conversational.  At an unhurried pace, Mr. Rogers talked with adults and children on the show.  Often he was seeking to learn from them, as when he asked a young neighbor to show him some dance moves.  Mr. Rogers addressed his television neighbors about topics of interest or concern.  The Neighborhood of Make Believe was definitely low-tech, leaving lots of room for children’s imaginations.  Simple hand puppet characters interacted with people.  Some of the characters were children, and some were adults.  It was intergenerational.  Children loved Mr. Rogers, and I did, too, even though I only watched the show as an adult.  I am too old to have been one of his neighbors as a small child.

Our small congregation loves children.  We have no bells and whistles to offer, except that we love it when there are children present to ring the church steeple bell.  We can’t offer busy programs and sports leagues with crowds of excited children.  But we can be neighbors like Mr. Rogers, himself a Presbyterian minister who saw the children as his congregation.  We approach children with his gentleness and loving simplicity.   Like Mr. Rogers, we share Jesus’ love conversationally.  A child who comes to Morton will find many “grandfriends”–my daughter’s term–who will take genuine, ongoing interest in them.  We tell the gospel story.  We share our talents and encourage the children to share theirs.

DSCN8728Here are some pictures from our recent summer program for children.  God has given our church many talents in music, so we decided to share that with the children, both as an expression of love and an encouragement for them to give musical instruments a try.  We also invited them to express their creativity through art.  Adults and children alike were enthralled by Jesus’ story, and mixed together in a lovely way.  We are so grateful for this time God gave us with these children!DSCN8897  (Click here to see more photos.)

Now we’re working on developing more opportunities of this kind, with the dream and the hope of welcoming these and other children and their families fully into the family of God.   We long for them to join us on Sundays!  But even if they don’t, we are still going to do what we can to help them know that Jesus loves them, and encourage them to love him back  He is their nearest, dearest neighbor.  Living in God’s neighborhood means loving other neighbors as Christ loves us.

We are a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood kind of church, looking for ways to ask people of all ages, “Won’t you be our neighbor?”

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Why does it seem that so few people want to give a small church a chance?  David Fitch suggests some answers in his blogpost “Why Do American Christians Prefer Big?” 

'New Life Church in Colorado Springs 2' photo (c) 2009, David Shankbone - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Fitch says that bigger is often seen as a sign of God’s presence, that a celebrity pastor is a known quantity, and that “Big church is less messy,”  i.e. in a big church you can easily come and go, take it or leave it.  It caters to the search for the “convenient.”  He also suggests what small local missional communities to overcome these habitual ways of looking at church.

Here’s a sample: “Of course, missional communities should not try to “compete” with this. Nonetheless, I think our gatherings must be intentional about displaying that God is present in this gathering and He is mightily at work in this body of people. It just looks different and (can I say this?) it is more real (less clouded by celebrity and special effects). Missional leaders should keep the gathering simple and be intentional about leading us into an authentic encounter with the living Christ from which we are sent into the world.”

Check Fitch’s post out and see what you think.

'Country Church' photo (c) 2012, dublin molly - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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A friend just called my attention to  this video about all the reasons people give for why they think they won’t be truly welcomed in church and why they wouldn’t fit in.  What do you think?

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Julia and Chester singing

Photograph by Lindsey Williams

Hymns Without Words is an online source of free, high quality, easily downloadable mp3 recordings for congregational singing.   All the hymns are arranged and performed by Richard Irwin, who is  Director of Music for the Parish of Holy Cross Chiseldon, UK.  There are a number of different instrumental combinations.  Almost all the hymns are in the public domain and lyrics are included on the hymn’s page.   If you have the proper copyright licenses, you can access others that are under copyright for use in worship services only by emailing Mr. Irwin.

Here is “Holy, Holy, Holy” performed on the organ, and “Morning Is Broken” performed on the piano.

He also has produced two CDs, “Hymns Without Words,” volumes 1 and 2,  that include some copyrighted tunes, such as “Bind Us Together.”  You can access them on amazon.com by clicking here.  You will see that he has also produced a collection of carols.

I highly recommend this site!

Here is a roundup of my posts about the many free and low-cost music resources available:

Hymnpod.com: downloadable piano accompaniments.

Smallchurchmusic.com: downloadable mp3 files.

Worship Service Resources: a CD collection.  Downloadable mp3 files also available.

See also this review of three CD collections: Hymns for Church, the Hymn Project, and the CD Hymnal.

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