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Posts Tagged ‘young adults in church’

'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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'Christmas Party - 2006' photo (c) 2006, Todd Nappen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Faith and Leadership from Duke Divinity School is one of the best sites on the web for Christian leaders.  Here is an article from UCC pastor Anthony Robinson with eight important pointers for reaching out to young adults.

These especially struck me:

  • Make it spiritual. The core business of religion is — surprise — religion; we’re not a social club, civic organization or political party.  Honestly ask, “Are we growing spiritually, in faith and discipleship?” “Are we  offering others opportunities to deepen faith?”
  • A corollary: Make it about God. People want to experience the holy, the
    divine, the sacred. They are dying for want of grace, wonder, mystery — not for want of bylaws, committees or sign-up sheets. At least, they don’t want those things instead of God.
  • Value the power of cross-generational community and relationships. Increasingly, we live in mono-generational enclaves. Speak of the importance of friendship and contact across the generations and then live that out in the way you do church.
  • Make it work for busy lives. Time is the new currency; don’t ask people
    to waste it. This is particularly true in many young or single-parent families, where people are working full time plus. Offer more short-term ways to engage, such as one-day mission projects, two- or three-week study series. Offer activities for parents to do with their kids.

Read the whole article.  It’s brief, but you’ll find much food for thought.

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'Dean Andy Andrews and family' photo (c) 2007, Mary Constance - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/At a recent Presbyterian conference on evangelism, campus minister Thomas Brown spoke about what congregations can mean in the lives of young adults.  He notes that “relationships with people who are not their peers or parents can be very significant for young adults,” Brown said. “God works through relationships, not programs.”

Brown and conference participants shared ideas for reaching young adults.  You can read an article about it here.

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Publicity photo from the television program Th...

Publicity photo from the television program The Andy Griffith Show. Pictured are Don Knotts (Barney Fife) and Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Andy Griffith Show is a favorite of many in our small congregation.  Recently some of us watched an episode of the show entitled “A Date for Gomer.”  Thelma Lou’s cousin Mary Grace unexpectedly comes for a visit.  The problem is that the Chamber of Commerce Dance is set for Saturday night, and even though she and Barney already have a date to go together, Thelma Lou won’t think of leaving Mary Grace home alone.  She insists that Barney find a date for Mary Grace.  Barney balks.  In appearance, Mary Grace is what many would consider “homely.”  Barney exclaims, “She’s a dog!”

Because Thelma Lou won’t go to the dance without Mary Grace, Barney seeks assistance from Andy, who is already set to go to the dance with Helen.  They decide to ask Gomer to be Mary Grace’s date.  Gomer keeps asking, “What’s she like? Is she pretty?” and they keep insisting, “She’s sweet.  She’s nice.  Real nice.”  Gomer agrees to go.

Our plain, simple small church is homely in the eyes of some.  Second rate.  They seem focused more on what we are not, and what we lack, and it feels as if they don’t appreciate the grace and beauty and blessings hidden in our quiet, humble package.  Sometimes people say the same thing about us that Barney and Andy said about Mary Grace: “The people are sweet.  The people are nice.  They’re real nice.  But…”

I understand younger people’s desire to go where there are larger numbers of young adults and children, and where it is possible to offer more age-specific programs for them.  I understand that they want to be with people their own age.  I understand that they are looking for a place they can enjoy.  But there’s something to be said for the blessings that come when multiple generations worship and live closely as the family of God together.  There is something to be said for making a commitment to understand one another across generations and for struggling to work together as a company of disciples, that spans the ages from cradle to grave–and beyond!   Yes, it takes special effort to work together in this way.  This is definitely the narrower, less popular road.

In the TV episode, Gomer goes into the date with Mary Grace with open eyes.  When the guys arrive at Thelma Lou’s house to pick up the gals, Gomer’s “Hey, Mary Grace!” is warm and sincere.  He smiles and chunks Andy on the arm.  But then Gomer realizes that there is something he’s “got to do,” so he abruptly hurries out.   It later becomes clear what Gomer is up to.  He believes Mary Grace deserves to be “adorned” just like Helen and Thelma Lou, so he searches high and low to find a corsage –he pronounces it “cor-say-ge”–for her.  Adorned with this token of grace, Mary Grace shines.  In Gomer’s eyes, plain, simply-dressed Mary Grace is pretty, and she is definitely someone worth spending time with.  He sees the grace in her, looks on her through gracious eyes, and treats her with grace in his own Gomer Pyle way.

May the Lord raise up Christians of all ages who see deeply through God’s gracious eyes.  May he raise up people of all ages to answer the call to live as intentional, covenant communities together, where Christian nurture flows from one generation to another and back again. May the Lord raise up Christians of all ages who want to follow Jesus and serve him, each other, and a hurting world together, side by side.

I admit it.  This is my prayer. I hope God brings somebody to Morton who hears the call to be an anchor for a young adult generation, someone who envisions a multigenerational family of God, someone who wants to be in the company of us who are older, and someone who wants their children to grow up knowing us older saints well.  Our hearts and our arms long for these young adults and their children.  May God help us who are older to listen to, respect and make room for them.

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Young Adult writing contest

Young Adult writing contest (Photo credit: Newton Free Library)

I just came across some good thoughts from a campus minister by way of one of my Episcopal colleagues (Thanks, Stephanie!).  The post is called Church for Young Adults.  The author’s main point is that if congregations want to reach and welcome and incorporate young adults, we need to talk to young adults and get to know them.  Here’s the link: http://goodnewsoncampus.blogspot.com/2012/02/church-for-young-adults.html

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Want to hear a word of hope for the New Year?  Check out this hope-filled article from the December 2011 issue of Presbyterians Today about ministry with young adults.  It’s titled “If This Is Church, Bring It On.”

Author Mark Ray notes, “In many ways, young adults are looking for the same things as previous generations, including Spirit-filled worship, authentic community and meaningful service.”

No, it is not crucial to have a guitar and drums in your worship service.  What is needed is to be genuine and authentic and to do what you do well.   He quotes Roger Dermody, Executive Director for Mission of the PC(USA) General Assembly Mission Council: “Whether worship is traditional or contemporary, the goal is to avoid having it become “monotone or rote,” he says. “We want to infuse our rich traditions and forms of worship with meaning to touch the hearts and minds of the younger generation.”

Younger generations are looking for genuine, deep relationships, including relationships that cross generational lines.  In small congregations, this often comes naturally.  The article speaks of congregations doing this intentionally.  Call it the “Cheers factor.”  They want to be where “everybody knows your name.”

As for service, Ray advises finding out what ministries young people are passionate about and accompanying them in service.  What’s more, young people are looking for encouraging mentors.  Again, this is intergenerational.

Warm, Spirit-filled worship.  Deep caring relationships across generations.  Service that meets critical needs.  Small churches can do all this.  Mine does, and I’m so grateful.

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