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.  “

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To me Church is…

 

To me Church is like a Wedding, a Memorial and a Grand Opening, it’s like a party,

like a neighbor welcoming you in for cookies (fresh baked) and like a playground for children. It should feel like a space that can be sacred and quiet and joyful noise-y.

Church should feel like there is no “right” way to behave, just respect, love and mutual upbuilding. It should feel like a place to ask questions, to stumble and fall (figuratively and literally). It should feel active, alive and full of stories. It should feel imperfect and incomplete (because we all are), it should be rich in tradition yet lacking in all stuffiness. To me church’s should feel more like AA, College Ministries and

Children’s Museums. It should feel like birthdays and Christmases, Yoga and Meditation, Gardens and Sunsets. It should be full of music and laughter, whispers and wahoos, hugs and kisses. Every single door of the church should be wide open, it should be advertised on craigslist and facebook, there should be huge signs welcoming everyone thru the door, and it should be as easy for crawling babies to find a comfortable spot as those in wheelchairs or who have to pace constantly.

It should be a place to find surrogate grandparents, helpful aunts and uncles and annoying brothers and sisters….It should be a place where interruptions are welcome, surprises are a good thing and change is associated with growth! Church should be Home; at least that’s what it is for me.

Your a millenni…

Your a millennial pastor, how do you get millennial’s to come to church?
You don’t, you go out and meet them where they are and love them and serve them
But how do we get them here?
::Sigh::

Its like asking an expert for advice and then ignoring it…..

Millenials, Church and perspective

Millenials, Church and perspective

An insight I often give about millennial is that many people don’t search out a church (because lets face it, church shopping is a lot of work) until they feel settled. Millennial cannot feel settled because of the sociological-economic pressures of today, therefore: no church

“Kinnaman said one of the key insights emerging from the tour was that “nomads, prodigals and exiles share something in common: being somewhere other than home. One of the characteristics of Millennial life has become the image of the traveller. They want to wander the world, both in real life and in digital ways. They want to feel untethered. There is a trend among young adults of delaying the pressures of adult life as long as possible; they want to embrace a lifestyle of risk, exploration and unscripted moments. At the same time, they want to be loyal to their peers. The generation has come to appreciate and take identity from a spiritual version of life on the road. In other words, it is a generation that is spiritually homeless.”

‘You know those…

‘You know those moments when you are fully aware of God? That nanosecond-to-a-second fullness of time where you and the universe in it are connected and the beauty of the divine exists? Since we are only human we can only take in that immenseness for a moment in time, but that is part of why we are in a community of faith instead of just living as individual believers!’

A Pastor Katy Theological Apostrophe hehehe

Smee “I think I’ve had an Apostrophe”

Hook “I think you mean an Epiphany”

Smee “LIghting, just struck my brain”

Hook “That must have hurt”

Why do people actually go to church?* (or …its like a family)

Whenever I talk to people about why they like going to church…the reasons I usually get come down to two reasons. (*Katy’s poll is totally anecdotal)

What Church People are actually saying

1. Its a like a family/the relationships, etc.

2. for the kids (although that tends to be a baby boomer reason)

Seldom to I hear (What church people aren’t saying enough of)

1. We are actually helping people 

2. The prayer is amazing

3. I feel connected to God

4. Worship is so meaningful

5. We are actively welcoming of all people…..

Pastor Fail? Denominational Fail? Gospel Fail? Church fail? Institutional Fail?

Where is the disconnect… (PS families are great, but to me there is more to it)

Embodied Spirituality: (w)holistic faith and what it means

Good Examples of Embodied Spirituality tend to be as follows

yoga

monks working

liturgical dance

and Mr. Rogers (because he’s the Presbyterian Superhero of faith 🙂

Here is the Spiritual but not religious issue in sum:

Christianity–more and more abstracted and spiritualized religion, emphasizing the moral lessons of the Bible, essentializing Jesus as love and pursuing faith. Like good Augustine-type-people we have more and more distanced ourselves from the body, turning communion into a remembering of Christ. Barb Hedges-Goettl concludes that we have moved away from the reality of the broken, embodied Divinity present in Jesus Christ. A particular example of this can be found in how communion is celebrated (more about this below/in the thesis)

Hence Christianity is about being “spiritual” and has almost nothing to do with our bodies

If anything we should deny our bodily needs, giving quick and easy solutions to issues of 1. addiction: denial, proof that worldly wants are addictive and evil 2. homosexuality: denial its just a bodily impulse and the body is evil 3. Health Issues: If you are truly pure your body will be healed, otherwise better luck in heaven. These are broad generalizations, but you get the idea.

Hence we have an entire generation of the spiritual not religious, because if Jesus is only love, and we should deny the body, why do we need to gather and/or embody Christ through the church? The church doesn’t embody Christ, in fact, it doesn’t even consider embodiment important, so bodies are–literally–gone from the church. Spiritual but not religious people can do all that from home. So that’s it, they’ll be Spiritual, they don’t need to be religious.

If what we eat, how we care for our bodies, where we are present and how we are active are spiritual activities, then spirituality very quickly turns religious….

Barb Hedges-Goettl suggests to us that a vital piece is missing, and that is the living body of Christ. My question is : If we say Christ’s body is both present in communion and embodied by the church, what does this do to our faith: God is NOT JUST present when we see love, God is calling us to presently embody love as a corporate (ie enfleshed/embodied/living-flesh-corpse) of Christ that is out in the community….I find this especially interesting in a digital world, where embodiment is finding new expression–and yet still nothing beats a face to face meeting (you can’t hug on skype)

“In my dissertation I wrote that faith is about meeting God and God acting upon us. God is the life-changing agent/subject, not the object of belief. The living resurrected Christ changes us; he is not just an example to emulate or the purveyor of an ethic or value”–Barb Hedges-Goettl Photo

Dr. Barb Hedges-Goettl ‘s thesis is : The Body is Missing: Eucharistic Theology of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Conversation with Zwingli, Calvin, and Nevin” (10107), has been submitted to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in preparation for posting on ProQuest)

PS Shepherd is the best fictional clergy, EVER

Sermons are Art

Sermons are Art

Sermons are art, sometimes they rock, and sometimes they don’t. Its less of a quotient of how many hours you put in, and tends to be where you are emotionally, are you feeling creative, is your imagination engaged, can you connect to your audience, is it relevant and yet provoking.

I’ve always said, I wish every sermon was a masterpiece, but since its art, it doesn’t work that way. There are practices and disciplines that help you to be a better artist, but never any guarantees.

This brings me to Presbyterian Today their articles about arts in the church (Shout out to Katie Douglass who pursued arts even while she did her doctorate at PTS)

Arts and Church Art as worship and considering popular culture (ie arts) and religion (cough, cough Science Fiction/Fantasy and Religion anyone? Read about Faith and Dr Who & Star Trek here)

and  Whether Sermons are becoming Obsolete…(well depends what you mean by sermons)

If we aren’t approaching Sermons as an art, but instead only as a form of communication or education,  then we are not encouraging creation, we are merely communicating about it. And I really think that is missing God’s point. If its art, then the format is far more open then are first and second definitions of sermon imply!!!!