Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

Young Families in Church…continued…..

A lot of young people don’t go to church (I know your shocked, your really, really shocked).

Here is my vast knowledge about church

1. Its a good community…its a good way to have intergenerational interaction, its a good way to ask hard questions (at the good churches anyway)

2. Church Shopping is tough: churches are desperate (which isn’t that attractive) and its hard to church shop when you feel unsettled, and lets face it, with the way the economy is, most people are fairly unsettled, especially the young people. I have been at the same job for 4ish years…that is VERY unusual for a person my age. If you don’t have a steady job or don’t know if your going to have to move (again) within the same year, its hard to make time to church shop.

In theories churches should be helping with this process (how about get to know your town guides? New to the neighborhood events that aren’t creepy? My church does a playgroup that allows a little bit with this)

3. Churches need to advertise themselves as a pace of transition (ie we are a stable place to come while your transitioning)…too much to Churches self-advertise or give the impression that this is where to go when you start to sort out your beliefs or your all set on where you are in life. This is OPPOSITE of what church should be, church should be a place to be crazy, screwed up and confused, a place to support people who are figuring it out…….Maybe churches should be more like college and less like a government.

4. Young Families Basic Needs: tend to include activities at a time of day they can actually manage, Sunday School that is enjoyable, Family friendly events, Adequate Rooms for children, Babysitting for events that are not suitable for children, changing tables, cribs, and preferably a space in the Worship area for kids to worship during church (try getting that one done, its almost impossible)…want to welcome families? Go out of your way to give them a real space to be….

5. Try to focus more on the Sabbath piece of church. Every single person I know is stressed and overwhelmed, if church could be a place of sanctuary, rest and sabbath we might actually communicate our message better.

6. That whole forgiveness of debts thing: do that. We preach forgiveness of debts, practically everyone I know is WAY in debt, yet we do nothing to practice what we preach….um….yeah….

7. Engage, engage, engage, find as many opportunities as possible to serve the community, to experience the community and to get to know the community (this is that piece of advice every single leader of churches gives)

8. Do NOT talk about young people as the “future”; first off, they are already people, not just future people (get my drift?), secondly this gross genera9lizing of who the young are is not appreciated

9. Try not to be judgmental: To be human is to be judgmental, its how we separate the “us” from the “them” its a defense mechanism, its natural, and its sad….we don’t need to judge other people, that’s God’s job. Plus! loving is our goal, good news is our job, and judging people adds to their problems. I used to have someone call me up at night and tell me what I needed to worry about…guess what…that is the opposite of helping…

10. Have Faith: Preach Good News, practice joy, dwell in the spirit, worry not about today or tomorrow, consider the birds, consider the lilies of the fields, they toil not, but God takes care of them…

The Token Young Family

“It’s exhausting being the young family in a church” This sentiment was shared to me by one of our “young families” about what another “young family” told them.

Its exhausting. Of course, I speak from the “young family” and “pastor’s family” congruently, but I know what they mean.

1) Getting the schedule

I’m not sure if it was just very different for families back in the day when our older members were young, or if they’ve forgotten just how crazy it is, but there is some kind of generational divide between what people think young families’ schedules are like and, well, reality. Events that seem easy are actually not. Babysitting is not considered (nor the lead time needed to get a babysitter) and the whole, I have to work for a living is similarly forgotten (which is ironic since I work for the church so hanging out is part of my work but sermons and paperwork need to get done too..I can only imagine how this increases for regular families)

2) Responsibilities

Most things these days require some level of participation that is beyond us: school, clubs, jobs, job-related socialization. Church responsibilities are the same, churches try to toe the line between keeping families involved and yet not being overdemanding, but honestly, most events are more fun if there are children there, except for the ones that children need to stay home for. The truth is, juggling kids at events is tricky, I’d prefer if every event was welcoming and helpful for kids to be present at.

3) Regular attendance

For most families attending once or twice a month is the very best they can do…they are just too busy, and making them feel guilty is not helpful.

Of course the easy solution to this is to no longer be the only “Young Family” at a church, but its hard to figure it out….I toy with ideas of starting a TEDtalks Bible study or doing more Family Oriented programming (Kids Clubs, Parents Night Out, Exploratory Music Classes), but timing is tricky. And I want church to be FUN. In the meantime, the hope is that there are advantages of being the “young family too” such as a. the kids getting more attention b. the church can listen better to your needs c. the church starts to be a better and better place for young families to hang out at…..

4) Welcoming

Being desperate is not the same as being welcoming. Church’s “need” young people to keep going, so they look at young families as their literal salvation (oops) and get very needy very quickly. Prime examples: Expecting young families to have their teenager to help with technology, expecting young parents to teach the Sunday School, Expecting young families believe the exact same things that the church grandparents believe are a few examples.

i.e. The Church should be more than a vampire looking for Fresh Blood!

Being welcoming is accepting the natural gifts of the family and asking them where they want to help out. Being welcoming is allowing for give and take….ask what the family needs from the church, not just vice versa…

What would help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed about families and church?

An absolutely r…

An absolutely real conversation had *last week* between a pastor & a congregation….

Pastor: and why did you think about making this big change?
Congregation: well…we wanted young families
Pastor: Why do you want young families?
Congregation: Because we need them…..we won’t survive without them
Pastor: Ok, that is a really practical reason, but what are you doing for young families?
Congregation: um…
Pastor: Do you provide services they need? Are you helping them with their debt, or economic problems? Do you give them a break from their kids? Are there places that address their spirituality?
Congregation: um…we never thought about that…
Pastor: I would encourage you, instead of think of why you need young families, think about what young families need from you….
Congregation: That is an interesting point
Pastor: Remember, desperation isn’t attractive…providing care is…

Overhearing Real Ministry Conversations..or why http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/ hits the nail right on the head.