Young 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.
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.