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.