Articles tagged with: millenials

07 January 2013

The Church's Generational Log Jam is Making Everybody Cranky

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

logjamMinistry leaders can be so busy lamenting the fact there are fewer people in our churches these days that we often miss how the people who do attend are crammed together generationally.

We are unwittingly cramming six distinct generations into three traditional roles, and it causes all kinds of congregational tensions, which present persistent challenges to ministry leaders.

That’s the important point that Carroll Sheppard and Nancy Burton Dilliplane make in their helpful book Congregational Connections: Uniting Six Generations in the Church. I had the pleasure of co-leading a conversation on generations in the church with Carroll at a recent gathering of the Philadelphia Area Ecumenical Resource Network, and I appreciated this point:

“This is the first time in the world’s history when significant numbers of six demographic cohorts have all occupied the stage at the same time.”

“What is intensifying the problem is that these six generational cohorts are trying to squeeze themselves into an outdated three-generation model of elders, households raising children/career singles, and children.”

“In the six-generational cohort society, it is often unclear who is in charge, who will do the work, and who is raising the children.”

29 October 2012

The Rise of the "Nones" and My Trip to Asheville

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

Asheville Love Local

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released its study "Nones" on the Rise, which stated that the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen to 20% - and tops out at 34% among those under 30.

This increase in the unaffiliated corresponds to a decline in those that identify as white (evangelical and mainline) protestants.

There are plenty of takeaways from the report, but it is clear that there are simply fewer and fewer people with whom the church has a traditional, historic affinity - people who might attend a church out of expectation,  obligation, or habit, be it for familial, ethnic, or cultural reasons.  

It is also clear that the cultural space the mainline churches inhabit is shrinking fast.

The challenge here is not about finding some great new outreach program, but entering into our culture, which is increasingly defined by the unaffiliated - and discovering, as Elizabeth Drescher has argued, the many spiritual connections there.

This place of the church in culture (or lack thereof) came home to me in a dramatic way on a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina.

13 February 2012

"Young People Should Be More Committed to the Church"

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Church

church councilYoung adults need to be more committed to church. At least, that's what I hear

What does that mean exactly? And, more importantly, how do we define that commitment?

Here's my hunch. When we say we want greater commitment from people, we mean commitment in the way people have purportedly "always" been committed in church. This tends to look like official positions with long-term time-intensive commitments of time. We reward longevity (not that there's anything wrong with that) but we less frequently celebrate shorter term commitments.

This ethos emerges from our congregational systems, which were created in a time when people had more time, when one-income families were more the norm, and when the landline phone was the latest technology. We no longer live in this world.

28 June 2011

The Cultural Commute to Church

Posted in Culture, Church

student princePeople sometimes drive many miles to church on Sunday - but that's not the only commute they have to make. 

They also have to make a cultural commute.

They commute from our present day culture to a church culture largely created 30, 40, 50 years ago.

This kind of cultural commuting hit home for me on a recent trip to Springfield, Massachusetts and the Student Prince German restaurant.

13 April 2011

The Church is Not a Victim of Culture

Posted in Culture, Church

Culture Isn't Killing Us. Our Grief Is.

Empty PewsI recently attended a retreat with a number of church friends.  We spent part of our time together looking at sociological data on religion in America over the last 60 years.

We paid particular attention to mainline denominations, including their declining attendance and size.  Over the course of an hour we talked about all sorts of reasons for that decline - political, cultural, sociological.

Not once, however, did we talk about anything the church may have done (or not) to contribute to its decline.  To be fair, that question wasn’t put to us, as such. But nothing about the church’s role - in the last 60 years - over the course of 60 minutes?

It was a rather remarkable omission.

14 August 2010

Follow Me: Our Changing Cultural Context

Posted in ELCA, Culture, Leadership, Social Media, Church

In August 2010 I attended Follow Me: Sharing the Gospel in a 2.0 World, a conference hosted by the ELCA for synod communicators and campus ministry pastors and students.  You can find video, presentation slides, and other resources on the Follow Me webpage.

On Thursday we heard from Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson andPastor Nadia Bolz-Weber from House for All Sinners and Saints(HFASS) in Denver.  The Bishop preached at the opening worship, and then he and Nadia had a conversation about emerging church, pastoral care by text message, Lutheran theology and liturgy, social media, being clear about one's cultural context, and the cultural shifts that the church must engage if it is to be relevant and survive.  A couple things struck me:

In his sermon, the Bishop preached movingly about the Call of Samuel and how his generation of the church must be willing to embrace the role of Eli, who was Samuel's mentor, the one who helped him discern God's voice and will and to follow it.   The Bishop said that he and his generation must embrace and support the young Samuels (pastors and leaders) in the church, asking them, "What is God saying to you?"  This was exceptional both for the heartfelt way he shared it, and because it is something I have rarely heard articulated by older pastors.  Most times the reaction to younger leaders and their approach to ministry is suspicion, fear, and, in some cases, dismissiveness.  In great contrast to this, Bishop Hanson expressed great trust and hope in the younger generations of leaders.  Thanks Bish!

Nadia affirmed this later in her conversation.  When asked about getting young adults (people in their 20's) to traditional church.  She said, "They aren't going to come."  She said the best thing we can do to engage those folks are 1) identify leaders from within that group, 2) give them excellent theological training, and 3) fund them.