Posts Tagged With: Millennial

Millennials: The End isn’t Coming (short of Jesus’s return)

First, the Church isn’t about to end, be it with a whimper or a bang. We are the inheritors of a tradition that has survived the Ascension of Jesus, outward persecutions, inward persecutions (those heresy debates with permanent conclusions), the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and more. All of this changed the Church. The 21st century and the digital swell will be no different because God is more faithful and creative than we can imagine.

Second (and like unto the first) Millennials aren’t going to manage what the Reformation could not do. The Church will survive us, in fact we could be good for one another.

We creatures called Millennials are just starting to come into our own. The oldest of us have, by most dating, just turned 30. We are at the point where we have been at the tables long enough to know we should be listened to; where we either no longer are alone or know we should no longer be alone; where we can begin to speak about who and how we tend to be.

Not everyone is thrilled by this, of course. We are strange and new and, even if we don’t want to do things in a new way (often true), we do want to do things in old ways that work for us.
We still have much to learn. I know this; I believe that most of us know this. But there are also things that we have to share.

We firmly believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (We tend tone quite orthodox.)
By and large we aren’t worried about the Church dying out because we don’t plan to go anywhere.
We know that the Church isn’t perfect. For many of us that is why we stay.
We know that the Church can be better than we currently are.
We aren’t asking for perfection.
(Also many of us can make the internet do all sorts of things. Not all of us and not every non-Millennial type needs this, but as the melts in your mouth not in your hand candy coating.)

We are not the end of the Church. We are not the future of the Church. We, I, desperately want to be a part of the Church. Because we love this Church. Because we have found Jesus in the liturgy, in and despite our craziness, and we want others to have that same experience.

That is what makes me sad when witness again my generation being ignored.

I say this in part because I do worry about what decisions would be made without the voices of my age-peers spoken and received. (I worry when other groups are not present.)

I say this because I am not interested in creating the Church I might have better liked when I was 14. I am far more interested in reforming the Church today’s 14 year olds might need us to be.

I say this because the more fully my age-peers are in and formed by the Church, the better we the Church will be in the years to come. We are here now, we are capable; being involved, being encouraged and allowed to exercise our gifts in this Church ought only to improve both of us. Surely we can all agree that this mutual investment would be mutually good.

I say this because it is my sincere prayer that I will be able to graciously hand over authority as I can and need to. Set the example of sharing and passing on authority and join me in hoping that we as a Church only get better at this.

We want to be here now. We want to be fully welcomed at all levels of the Church. We want to create The Episcopal Church that people will, if not flock to, be drawn to. Together there is a long way for us all to go.

Categories: Church, Episcopal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Millennials: Rumors Abound

My parents were part of that pattern where people left the Church for a chunk of their late teens/early twenties and then came back, usually when they wanted the kids to go to Church (link). They may well have been one of the last to leave and return. We should stop accepting this pattern.*

For starters, not all of my peers’ parents came back to Church, leading to higher than previously recorded numbers of the unchurched among Millennials. Second, of those of us who went to Church, we haven’t all settled down into a life with kids (also in record numbers) and those who have are marrying outside of their religious tradition in, yes, record numbers.

Aside from all of that, Millennials are less likely to trust institutional leadership. We grew up in households headed by people jaded by the Nixon/Watergate scandals. Marketers have been selling to us from the womb. We assume you are working an angle. (Because, let’s be honest, most people are. It’s human nature.)**

I am not the expert on Millennials; in fact, I often tell people that I’m probably a bad Millennial. Here’s some research that can tell you more. (link)

  • The Church, which says that it wants us, that it needs my age-peers and I, is not any easier to figure out. (I promise.) Instead of unconditional love there is at best a mixed message.
  • God loves us, but what in the world is up with the clothes and the music and the tattoos. (I don’t have or want tattoos, but have and will defend them.) Also on this list: crazy hours, movies, lack of manners, texting at the dinner table.
  • The Church needs to do a better job of recognizing and supporting young leaders but email and cell phones are evil. (Actually email and cell phones–also Facebook, Twitter and more–are standard business, school, and relational tools. That doesn’t mean they are ideal for every situation, but neither was the telegraph.)

We are so glad you are here, what are you majoring in? (When this is the only question you ask after I’ve been coming to church for over a year, no you don’t have a college ministry.)

You don’t have to take my word on it. Other people have weighed in. I don’t feel a need to offer you a link here, just search Millennials and Church. (I’ll wait.)

The Church I grow old in isn’t going to look like the Church you or I grew up in. Those versions of the Church were part of their time and place. We need to become a Church of our time, and even a Church with our faces pressed against the future. We need to rediscover our role as Jesus’s voice and hands and feet and arms and everything not to me and my fellow Millennials, but to those people ten and twenty years younger than I am.

*I said this to the House of Bishops and Deputies listserv:
As a twenty-something Episcopal Preist, I am terrified by the thought that we are going to continue to accept the idea that it is okay for people to be away from the Church. If we take ourselves seriously as the incarnate Body of Christ, with a vow to do all that we can to support our brothers and sisters in their lives in Christ (BCP pg 303), what are we thinking?
It is not okay for the children of God to leave, even for a time. For some people it may be necessary, but the Church should regard it as a tragedy.
In the case of young adults, my age-peers, isn’t the better question, the more essential question, how can we better support young adults who need space to stretch and grow while going through a series of transitions?
And isn’t part of the answer what other denomination has a better tradition of faithful inquiry and questioning than we do?
When “you” give “us” permission to leave, “you” also give yourselves permission to let us go without effort.
**Remember? (link) I’m one of them.

Categories: Church, Episcopal | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Millennials: Starting Young

My parents picked The Episcopal Church for their family long before I chose to stay, and I’ve often thought that TEC ‘stuck’ better in my case than they might have wished. By the time I was the one choosing a lot more was involved than easy Sunday School registration.

The first time I chose TEC I was 14. It was because of my cousins’ non-Episcopal youth group. I had gone on a mission trip with them and came home convinced that I needed a similarly loving and supportive sort of community in my life. As an incoming High School freshman, I decided that my Church needed a youth group.

The same Church that had loved, fed, and supported my family through my mother’s cancer and death loved, encouraged, and supported me. Rides to Diocesan events, money for Provincial events, and when I wandered into someone’s office saying, “I think we should…” no one ever laughed at me. By the time I graduated High School, we had a youth group (creatively name the Grouth Youp), a young person was regularly elected to the vestry, and as a college freshman I was elected to Diocesan Council.

And a Church full of people showed me all of the broken, hurtful humanness of the Church. I saw people I love and respect behave in manners that no one anywhere should. By the time I was 18, I had seen the Church at her best and some of her worst.

So, of course, I stayed. I went to college. I got more involved. I started discernment for the priesthood. I saw more of our best and more ways we are at our worst.

My junior year of college was the year I almost left. I was too tired, too much on the outside, too weary of demanding that I be listened to, be seated at any table, not be ignored.
It was also the year I discovered that I will never leave. This is my home. This is my family.

I learned that I am not an Episcopalian because I like the liturgy or the history or because my parents didn’t pick an ELCA church. I am Episcopalian because the liturgy, our way of being The Church, best helps me be a Christian. My last service in The Episcopal Church will be my funeral. It will be lovely Rite II service with good music and, hopefully, many years from now.

I’m an Episcopal priest. I’ve been in a leadership role in this Church for my entire adulthood. I’ve been choosing The Episcopal Church for more than half my life. It is a rational decision, but even more it is a decision based on need and faith.

Because my parents didn’t pick an ELCA parish, because of the history, because of the liturgy, because of everything we (occasionally) get right. Because this is where I see Jesus.

Categories: Church, Episcopal, My Life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Millennials in the Church: Before you hide the China and Change the Music

I have a confession: I’m under thirty.
Which is wonderful but I’m also an Episcopal priest. So suddenly no-one* seems to know what to do with me. I should celebrate my youth; I should talk up my experience (and at 14 years of leadership in this here Church, I’ve got some). I should learn more; I should lead more.

In short, I tend to get celebrated by the same people who wonder why “all young people” leave the Church (which has been said in my actual physical presence). When I talk with my fellow young Episcopalians, I know that I am not alone. We belong in a Church which says we are wanted but does not know what to do with us.

So, I’m going to devote a little bit of time to talking about Millennials and The Episcopal Church. This is looking like three parts:
1) Starting Young: More of how and why I am (still) in TEC
2) Rumors Abound: What people say/write about Millennials and where I think they are right and wrong
3) The End Isn’t Coming: why Millennials aren’t the end of the Church (and why the Church isn’t going to end)

I usually manage about one post a week, but I think these will go up a bit faster because of the work I’ve already done.

For now let me say this: As a young, socially liberal, female priest, I have always felt that people have the greatest problem with my age.

*This is an occasion where I can easily offend everyone. I am not going to tell specific stories about ageism in the Church, but every thing I say has a real story I’ve experienced beneath it. If you are worried about being who I’m talking about, it is you and it is your pew-neighbor and it is no one you have ever met.

Categories: Church, Episcopal | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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