What Young People want in church

What Young People want in church

YES, YES, YES

“So here are some of my thoughts about this.  Please chime in as you feel so moved.

1. Young people want innovative things in church. 
Now, this is going to seem to stand in direct opposition to what I said above, but bear with me.  Far too often faith communities latch onto the word “innovative” and think it means media in worship services, contemporary bands, and so on and so forth.  This is wrong.  This was maybe innovative 20-30 years ago.  Maybe not even then.  When I say innovative, I mean different from ordinary life.  I have a smart phone and a laptop that are with me constantly.  I am constantly connected and surrounded by a multimedia, multi-sensory experience.  In the church that I attend, I want something different.  We actually want to be fully present and have an experience of the divine.  We are not looking for entertainment.  Which leads me to my next point…

2. Young people want church to be part of the world
Congregations have gotten into a nasty habit of trying to appeal to young people, or furthermore any new people, by trying to make their churches as much like the “outside world” as possible.  This rests on at least two problematic assumptions.  First, that the church is separate from the world and, second, that we want to be isolated from it.  This is not true.  Just because your congregation has a coffee cart in the narthex, doesn’t make me think you are cool and certainty doesn’t make me want to come attend worship.  We want churches that are in touch with their neighborhoods and our country and our world.  This is not limited to once-yearly Habitat for Humanity builds or mission trips (that is another post entirely) to Mexico once every couple years or collecting food for the food pantry.  No, young people want their congregations to share life with their communities.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, which leads to…

3. Young people want church to be a place where they can be real
Coming of age as a young adult right now is a lonely and terrifying proposition.  We are disproportionately unemployed.  We are the first generation who are “worse off” than our parents.  We are drowning in debt.  We are putting off getting married and having children and owning homes.  We will likely never realize the American dream as it has been known in the past.  We are being bombarded with demands to “hold it together” and maintain a certain image because networking is important and we “never know what contact will help us get a job”.  There are very few places where we can be truly who we are.  Where we can share our pain and disappointments and joys and fears. Church can be that place.  But most of all, we want to be heard in all of who we are, which brings me to…

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?  This is an entirely opposite approach than currently exists and it is scary.  If you want us to lead, you might have to step out of the way to make room for us. Which leads me to…

6. Young people aren’t interested in maintaining the status quo in church
The Derek Penwell article, What if the kids don’t want our church?, has been floating around for awhile  and I have even written about it on this blog before.  This is painful but I am just going to say it, we don’t really want your church.  This is not a value judgment.  It just is.  The Baby Boomer generation is perhaps the first in American history that has had such a wide swath of products and experiences targeted especially towards them.  They received this well.  And this huge and gifted generation has assumed that everyone else wants the same thing that they do.  We do not.  We want the same opportunities that you all have received to re-imagine and re-shape what church can be.  Which opens the discussion of…


7. Young people value authenticity
Authenticity gets thrown around as a marketing tool, particularly in churches.  Young adults have a finely tuned ability to smell inauthenticity and nothing is more pathetic than a carefully crafted facade of being “authentic.”  We want congregations to recognize their own gifts and identity and live into that. Not every congregation can stand for everything and not every congregation is going to be able to be a place where young adults find a church home.  But that is okay, because we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to do what she will and form and reform our congregations and our leaders which leads me to my final points…

8. We are open to where the Spirit is leading us and we want our churches to recognize that
Those of us who are a part of faith communities are incredibly faithful.  Our religious practices look different.  We want to discuss theology in bars with our friends.  We want to experience worship, not just attend it.  We want to sing hymns loudly and badly in pubs with our congregations.  When we start becoming engaged in congregations, it might look different than our parents and grandparents, but it is no less valid.  

9. Those of us who sense a call to serve want to be raised up as clergy in the church
We are young.  We are faithful.  We are LGBTQ.  We have tattoos.  We sometimes swear.  We have made mistakes.  We will continue to do so.  We are no different from you, yet we are so different from you. We need to be mentored by you, but we also need for you to allow us to fly and to be moved by the Holy Spirit.  

10. We want to hear when we need to step back and let a new generation lead
We won’t be young forever.  Even though we are often the youngest in congregations, we will continue to age.  And if our church communities are doing what they hope we will, we won’t be the youngest.  And we need to learn when to get out of the way for something new to happen as well.  At that point, we will need you to help us know how to gracefully step aside.  “

Jesus’ primary message was NOT, “Try harder; the kingdom of God is here.”

https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/church-is-not-about-belief-in-jesus/ Exactly the kind of theological thoughts that I refer to in my post about Jesus, belief and how Christianity is doing it backwards.

 

Here is an interesting theology that is truly a new trend.

We can see it reflected in Fantasy (which I think is primary a mirror of spirituality in the world)

Narnia, Tolkien’s elves, Oz, etc. posited that technology and progress was “taking over” and “obliterating” magic, and so magic had to be hidden and kept safe (this is also true in “Flight of Dragons!” love that movie)

 

Urban Fantasy (Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman, etc) and Harry Potter signal a new thought which is that the magical/religious world is parallel to and layered with the “real” world, and once you discover it, you realize its been there all along….sounds like a conversion experience doesn’t it 🙂

I am living in parallel worlds, and I am a parallel girl…..hehehe

Jim Palmer writes “Jesus’ primary message was NOT, “Try harder; the kingdom of God is here.” Nor was it, “You have a lot of growing to do before you can ever expect to experience God’s kingdom.” Instead, Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.” The word “repent” (metanoia) means to change your mind or to see things in a way you have never seen them before.” This theology of the spiritual and physical world both paralleling and overlapping in such a way that your eyes are opened to them is exactly the turn fantasy has been taking recently.

 

HOW COOL IS THAT!!!

Jim Palmer

darla-whitegirl

The language of transformation often works against us. We sometimes speak of “spiritual growth.” The idea of “growth” implies that spirituality is a process of stages in which we make improvements or progress toward becoming something more or different than what we are right now. Consider the possibility that you were born out of the image, likeness and being of God. The image, likeness and being of God is the underlying, unchanging, and fundamental essence of who you are. The truth is that there is nothing wrong with you the way you are. You cannot be improved upon, and there is never any diminishment of who you are. There is nothing more secure than your true Self and it is never threatened.

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The thing about committees is…

I know a lot of pastors who are trying to redo their committees, but the truth is I just don’t have any at my church.

Well I have two the deacons (our hospitality and care ministry) and facilities (the same four guys who have been taking care of the church for decades)……and that is about all we can support.

So when I want to have an Easter Program, do Christian Ed, Run a Farmer’s Market (which we did last summer and will again this summer), or do a play of Charlie Brown Christmas, run a breakfast/dinner, etc. The buck stops with me not a committee.

The session (my governing board) is 6 people, usually I have about 5 devoted people and 1 person who is too busy with “life” to be able to put a lot of time in. The session makes lots of decisions, but they also end up leading (almost) everything that isn’t already designated to the other two committees.

We only have 30-40 adults participating in church so about 6 who are too elderly (too being a relative term our facilities committee as a 70-something year old on it) and unable to do things. 6 people on session, 4 on facilities, 6 on deacons, plus 5 or 6 people who attend but aren’t really members (for whatever reason, probably so they don’t have to be on session, although technically these people could do committee work, but you don’t want to overwork the newcomer right)

((Too often we focus more on the structure of the church than the welcome for our new membership……))

Somehow the buck always stops with me. The session makes a decision, and often it reads as “we will support you as you do that” instead of “how can we build a team to do that”

I am not casting blame here. The church is only 30-40 people, some of whom are too infirm to take up the mantel of leadership, some of whom lead in spite of their age, some of whom attend but aren’t members, and the rest serve, and serve and serve…

So the question is, is there a way to do this without committees? How do we do all the “work” of the church that needs to get done? How do we streamline? How do we garner support? How do we get the community on board?

Committees are out, I’m ready for a new way to plan!