My Fairy Tale for 20 somethings….

http://fairytalesfor20somethings.tumblr.com

Wizard of Oz by Katy Stenta

Dorothy thought that chasing the first tornado would have landed her the weather job. Instead she kept having to travel. Meanwhile her parents wanted her to click her heels and come back home, problem was no work there. She was not moving back in with her parents (again). She kept following the yellow brick road, and following and following. 
 
Finally a TechWizard convinced her and her three traveling companions to Kickstart a book about her journey.

One Millennial’s expectations

Here’s a great article about expectations

I think that expectations might be really high, but on the other hand, most people I know are struggling to pay the bills. Its deceptive because I will never starve–we were on WIC in seminary–

so I don’t look that bad off, but on the other hand my debt is more and more a problem, and it feels like I’m barely staying afloat (nevermind paying stuff off)……….Its hard, because I guess I could have made different choices (ie not have 3 children and a grad degree, maybe one or both of these things should not have happened) but I’m not sure that I had UNrealistic expectations (that my husband would be able to work fulltime somewhere?) ….and the ONLY thing we spend money on for fun is eating out (and with kids sometimes thats a survival technique)…….

In a completely informal survey among friends, it appears there was this change between the babies born before the 80s and after…..apparently those born before the 80s got the “work hard and you will succeed” line and those after got the “Work hard and you will succeed and be happy.” But my observation is we aren’t succeeding, we aren’t happy and in reality we aren’t even making it……so I disagree about the exceptional expectations thing…..

The “whole you guys think your TOO special line” is a little annoying—“you guys are delusional” is angering……(and your solution to this situation is to change us? Is there a way other things can change too?). Adults who have careers, children and houses and are talking about retirement, those who get to refinance houses they actually own and that their kids are in a hard place that they don’t understand….. (those who tell me about how they worked part time to make it thru  college where I worked 2 or 3 part time jobs seeming to make almost no difference, and I had WONDERFUL HELP paying for college)………

Then there’s the whole you need two parents working fulltime now to pay for kids–which is a socio-econmic problem.

But seriously other adults talk about refinancing and retirement, and meanwhile my ONLY capital (my car) got totalled by another driver which means no I have absolutely no capital, and lots and lots of debt…….

Here are my expectations

I expect my children to choose college based on their own finances and debt decisions, because we have no means to save to for them….

I expect Social Security to be gone by the time I am older, and I should not count on it

I expect to have nothing saved for retirement

I expect to be 100K in debt at least until my youngest starts school

I then expect that if my husband needs to live somewhere else to work fulltime, that we will be able to somehow manage it after my youngest starts school…….so that we can actually start paying down our debts….

I expect my two cars to last at least 5 more years as I am currently making payments on both

I expect my husband and I to continue tutoring, to trade off babysitting as much as possible to save money. I expect to rent out our car, trade favors and otherwise barter as much as possible to save money.

I expect to continue to never buy movies, books or clothes for myself or my husband unless we have an interview, or the shoes are leaking profusely

I expect to garner clothing for my children through wonderful grandparents and extended family for as long as possible, the same being true for extracurriculars, and the majority of toys received during birthdays and Christmas (because we can’t afford much more), and am SO lucky this is the case

I expect to continue to miss out on movies, shows and adult activities due to lack of funds/babysitting and to continue to do introverted/at home activities because they are cheaper and require less coordination

I expect if I ever am out of work to have to move the entire family back with our families because we are barely making it as is…

I expect that all the people my age will continue to look for second and third jobs to help finances–making our chances of being able to socially hang out all the less…(everyone I know my age is looking for fulltime/second/more work)

I expect to be unhappy whenever I think about money, but happy because I am in a steady career that I like and that I got to have a family

I expect never to own a house, ever.

I expect the library will continue to be our best friend.

I expect my kids will play outside a lot, because its free and because its good for them.

I expect Netflix, free arts and crafts and recycling, I expect a lot of creativity as we figure out how not to buy things (ex: I jimmied together a Spiderman Costume today, because my son wanted one)

The snarky part of me wants to ask “Do you think I’m setting expectations too high” Read: I am SO not a GYPSY

The realistic part of me wants to say “What do you make of my expectations?”

When your in debt…

Maybe this is really obvious to other people, but apparently its not really helpful to go to a big stewardship conference when you are about $100,000 in debt. (at least it not if your me….)

There I’ve gone and said it. My family and I are over $100,000 in debt, and the end seems nowhere is sight. We live paycheck to paycheck, my husband works three part time jobs, I work one fulltime job. I try to tutor (although I’ve let that fizzle recently). We rent out our extra car, and we have wonderful people who we pay (not very much) to help us to take care of our 3 boy-boys. We try to stay off the credit cards, but when bills come they come. And maybe we could have put off having children, but every time we’ve had a child someone has been home (first two were during our summers at grad school and the third was when my husband was looking for a job by my new church) so we know we are saving a TON on childcare. We are done with that (we think) and I guess we could have not had kids, but honestly that so does not work for us. So we can’t really see what else to do……

Here is the part that gets me…We’re not alone. Most people my age are struggling with debt. I’m lucky that I have a job with benefits (which frankly is why we have 3 kids) but really, we aren’t really “making it” so to speak.

So when I went to the kaleidoscope stewardship conference, I really wanted to hear about the United States’ problem with debt, in the context that we pray and promise the forgiveness of debt. I wanted intellectual conversation, theological discussion. I probably would have settled for the fact if someone (besides me and my big mouth) had raised the issue…

What the conference was: A great bag of tricks and tools, and a new set of language to think about stewardship–a training for stewardship teams or world-weary pastors, a way to address money in (primarily) big churches or churches with undergivers.

A nice way to think about these situations are like this (your planting the seeds of stewardship)

328 × 272 – colsdioc.org

What it discussed: Healthy financial practices–including giving, personal relationships, thankyous, ongoing stewardship (instead of a once a year thing), and some reflection about where people do put their money and why it isn’t church (instead). For thoughts about wealth and how it effects judgement read this fascinating article..

575 × 300 – staparish.net

What it didn’t include:

ways to leverage Time and Talent as well as money, (much) theological discuss, what to do if you were in financial distress (or are already in debt), and the fact that we are moving on from institutional religion to something else in Christianity….

The story was pay your debts and then you can get on with your life…..apparently I will never be able to get on in my life.

I guess I pictured the conference to be more about this…

and less about this

367 × 224 – salempresbytery.org

If your interested in my theology of debt read my brilliant post about Ruth here!

But here is the long and short of it.

American’s Don’t God to Church (this report notes that “overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”)…ok so again an indication our “stewardship” approach should probably be more about sharing what we’ve got rather than raising money for the instituion….

All Americans have to deal with debt (sequester anyone??), ESPECIALLY those Millennial/Nones we (us religious people) are so desperate to connect with….

We pray for, Christ promises and we attest to the forgiveness of debts.

Anyone else notice that Christianity is dropping the ball here?

I vote we find a way to REALLY address debts and the feeling of worthlessness it induces (again read my Ruth post for more on this)

And since I’m one of those in deep debt. I pray we do it soon!

 

Graph from the fascinating article linked above

Think One Person Can Change the World?????

We do too

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That’s where they got me. I mean I was pretty sure that Oberlin was the undergraduate program for me. I had talked to the dweeby guy, stood up to my counselor “You sure you want to move that far away” (um…DUH I hate high school), and all, but when I got the packet with Oberlin’s old motto, it got me.

I also probably should have realized that I was going to be a minister then, because I was kind of like one person has changed the world (ie Jesus) and he has totally empowered me to do the sameImage

…ah the confidence of youth….

But if you know me, I am the eternal optimist, so I hopefully haven’t become too cynical since then, even though the world keeps on giving me worst and worst news….bad economy, little jobs, sucky compensation for work done, the evaporation of pension funds, the need to put off life (marriage, house, children etc) due to the aforementioned problems, wars, fiscal cliffs, national debts and taxes.

However I believe there has been a cultural shift in the last election–it hasn’t really to do with the president but more the fact that racism and bigotry has been limited due to the backlash for some representatives comments Re; gays, women, abortion, etc.

Part of that change was examined in my last post Open Source Culture (Go Millenials!)

Thanks to a recent conversation with my philosophical compadre Charlie, I have crystalized some of what I have been writing towards in the last couple of posts. (PS he totally pointed out that at least in a democracy we all have a vote that is value–talk about power)Image

Churches need to do the following to Change the World

Build a Community that

1. Forgives Debts: That’s right, be proactive, do a kickstart, open donations, find some way to address indidividual’s debts in your community–I suggest starting with student debt since that is the least questionable kind of debt. What if we as the church worked to communally Forgive as many debts as possible?

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2. Be multigenerational: Church is one of the few places where different generations interact who are not related. Embrace this. Keep young people in church, give them a special space to be look at one example. If we make those connections that otherwise can’t be made, then we are providing a service. (and of course this means making worship accessible to those spiritual but not religious people).

3. Finally Educate, educate, educate. Why are people in debt? In pursuit of education. What if church’s provided free community education: relieving debt and bringing generations together in one fell swoop (HA, wouldn’t that be wonderful?) I would love to spearhead a million different educational opportunities for my community, because that is a concrete way of helping people.

THink one church can change the world????

Open Sourcing and Laziness

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Ok, so what if this open source movement which started with the music companies and the digital downloading (actually it started with the record button on VCRs but I’m too youngImage to remember that). Was a cultural shift today? If you look at communities sharing businesses, etc. this generation is into open source

Examples include Relayrides, carsharing, CSA, community gardens, couchsurfing, firefox, anything Wiki and of course probably the most famous and one of the first Linux

Opensource means sharing information freely so that the community benefits. Granted making money by sharing your car isn’t a direct example of open source, but the free sharing of when you use and don’t use your car helps to free it up so others can use it (see what I mean). It also can hint at laziness because your are using someone else’s work/resources to get information. You didn’t do the work yet you get to benefit from it!

When it comes to Spirituality, my generation also tends to take a more open source perspective, enjoying all of the knowledge that comes from religion and then choosing what they want to practice (hence spiritual not religious can mean anything from a vague idea of God, to a number of spiritual practices that just to happen to exist via the church). I think this is a piece of culture of millennials that older people are missing. In fact there is a slight movement towards Open Source Theology/Christianity Read Landon Whitsitt’s book  or blog(http://landonwhitsitt.com/2012/11/27/pecans-and-pastors-continued/) or checkout http://www.opensourcetheology.net/ and the Bible without Religion Project http://jimpalmerblog.com/rfv-bible-religion-free-version-by-jim-palmer/.

Which brings me to the “lazy” idea. There is this idea that unemployed people are lazy, and since roughly %40  of those who are unemployed are under the age of 30 I take great offense of this. Every single person I know is looking for a job, those who are employed are either underemployed or unable to make enough to support themselves/their families (this is esp. true for families where one spouse has found employment and the other is more limited in their geographical choices). It isn’t that we are lazy, its that we can’t find work, and we have to make do in the in-between. (And if you think people don’t want to be working, do me a favor and offer someone a job and see what they say)

In the meantime we are making do by sharing, by returning to trading times, goods and services for things instead of money. Something that started as an internet phenomenon (free information: its everywhere) became a necessity as we couldn’t get to work, and the reality that working harder has not meant that we do better/make more money or are more successful. Since we’ve seen through the promise of “work hard and you’ll succeed” (because that’s what we were told growing up).

If you mean we won’t work harder for little to no rewards, if you mean that we don’t have our eye on the prize, if you mean we are less possessive and are becoming instead an open source generation: then yes, I guess your right we are lazy Instead we are doing what we need to make ends meet and then using our extra time creatively.

But I, instead, see it as a cultural shift away from materials and valuing information, a place where timeand space are seen as more definitional than profession or monetary status. Image

Yes, boredom helps creativity, and yes we as a generation are bored, there is little to no meaning in our lives, and all the things we were taught to strive for (no student debt, professional fulfillment, financial security) are inattainable–but that boredom is giving us creativity. And if that is a side effect to our so called laziness, I’ll take it.

I see this as a moment for change…

Go Laziness, Go Openness, Go Millenials, I wonder what we will do next

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REEEEEEEEEE-form

Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)

Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…

Then there’s Sandy (enough said)

And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her statusImage

Can I just let out a general ARGH?

Here’s what I think

1. Restart, Rethink, Reform

We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it

Here’s what we should do

a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.

b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)

c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.

d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.

e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)

f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).

g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.

OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings

h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.

We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made

The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)

please

Peter Pan and the Economy

“We will never grow up” Sometimes I think that this is the theme song for my generation. Playing the day away–putting off being settled, trying to find a foothold on which to grasp. Here we are living at home, putting off marriage and  renting. .Image

“Today, some 29 percent of 25- to 34-year olds either never moved out of their parents’ home or say they returned home in recent years because of the economy, according to the Pew report. Among 18- to 24-year olds, that figure is even higher – 53 percent of young adults in that age group live at home”. That’s right half of the youngest adults have to live at home.

(for more read http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2012/0315/Three-in-10-young-adults-live-with-parents-highest-level-since-1950s)

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Personally, I know this to be true. My siblings and I have all been supported by my parents since college. Every person I know has had to live off/with their parents Luckily my family had my grandmother’s house so I was one of the few of my friends who didn’t have to move back in with the family after grad school–that’s right grad school with two kids and two cats in tow.

The Young Adult age keeps getting longer and longer. Young Adults are those who have the responsibilities of an adult but don’t yet feel settled (thanks Kenda Dean for that definition).  Young Adults used to be the generation that belongs in the YA section of the library–you know those between the ages of 15 and 18 or maybe even 20. Today “young” adults are all those under age 35.

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Because of the economy, us Boomerangs, or Millenials have put off marriage, housing and Children. “Nearly half say that in recent years they’ve taken a job they didn’t really want, to pay the bills. More than a third have gone back to school because of the poor economy. About a third have postponed either their plans to get married or have a child, and one in four say they have moved back in with their parents after living independently. And fewer than half of young people who are now employed say they have the education and training necessary to get ahead in their jobs”.

Maybe it isn’t “We won’t grow up” but we can’t grow up. Personnally I know that we will not be owning a house for a long time, the used bookstore we want to open has to wait, and we are lucky that we were able to have kids so soon.

So what does religion have to do with us? Can religion help those struggling with debt and self-worth as is described in http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/09/local/la-me-young-recession-20120209

Here a summary of the current situation. Most people consider themselves “Spiritual” but “not religious” “Katie Douglass a Phd student at Princeton, researched young adults “While they typical attendance/praying/Bible study questions continue to be dismal when it comes to young adult responses – when asked Have you become more or less religious in the last year? – and Are you interested in growing in your faith? -produces emphatic yeses.”

for the hr long interview about young spirituality see http://churchnext.tv/2012/09/12/katherine-douglass-young-adults-are-more-spiritually-aware-than-you-think/

So young people are looking for meaning, they are looking for purpose, but the connection has not been happening. Apparently most young people find anything relevant to them in the sermon. There is nothing. According to research done by Stephen Cady, young people do not find anything spiritual or connectional about a sermon (http://churchnext.tv/2012/08/20/stephen-cady-why-100-of-young-people-dread-the-sermon/)

If young people who are in high school find little meaning in worship, I expect the same is true of this generation of boomerang/millenial/Peter Pans. Plus, if we are feeling rootless and unfulfilled a rooted congregation might feel overwhelming, or apathetic about a generation that can’t be around for the long haul, can’t attend church every Sunday, and can’t commit the way other generations might have.

Here is a generation that was told “work hard and go to school and you will succeed” and here we are: Not Succeeding. Understanding that this must be somehow our fault. How might faith and Christ address this? How might the love of God and the purpose of our lives to build relationships and communities based on that love give purpose to these people’s lives. If Jesus met a college student, what would he have to say to them????

Would he had said “Peter Pan why won’t you grow up and get your butt to church, so that you can understand God (the way we do)”

or Would he have met him where he was “Peter Pan, Can I play with you?”

PS remember the Harry Potter/Fantasy generation is graduating next, what is their fascination with fantasy about? how does that fit into spirituality? How does that work in this economy? *”For young adults, bad times don’t trump optimism. Among those ages 18 to 34, nearly nine-in-ten (88%) say they either have or earn enough money now or expect they will in the future” see for full survey http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/02/09/young-underemployed-and-optimistic/

(Just some light philosophical questions 🙂