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From June 3-7, Erick and I took a summer seminar at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan called: “Ministry to and with Millenials and GenZ.” The learning was fantastic: both from the professors and with our classmates and colleagues in ministry. It was a rich and beautiful time.
There’s so much I want to share, too much even: I don’t know where to start! I think it might be helpful to break it up into 2 blogs with this first one talking about the characteristics of these two generations. Millennials are those born from 1980-2000, or some say 1980-1995 and GenZ are those born from 1999-2015, our current middle-schoolers, and teens. I’ll write later about what we can do in the church to engage with these generations and help them to rediscover their faith.
Young adults and teens are doing life differently today then we did 30-plus years ago. We sense this, we know this, but maybe we don’t always understand it completely. We have some of our own biases and prejudices (eg. “all millennials are lazy”) on who these “emerging adults” are, which I’ve learned are not always true or helpful.
So, here is some data based on thousands of hours of rigorous research. Some of it may surprise you, or even challenge you!
This is not an exhaustive description of these young adults, but hopefully you begin to get a picture of who they are. There are definitely exceptions to these descriptions. However, this gives a broad view of the emerging adults in our society, which can help us have conversations about how/why many of them are leaving the church, and what we can do to re-connect with them. That’s for next time.
Thanks for reading,
We have received some inquiries as to what is happening with the Big Blue Wall event. On May 6 Lesli VanMilligen helped us think about “How do we as a community want to support faith formation in our youth ages 10-18?” This focus question led to lots of ideas which we posted on the wall, categorized and labeled. It was a good start; it was never intended to complete the task.
Staff took a few further steps at gathering data. We read some email sent by participants clarifying their views. We heard from the Meeting House staff about their conversations about the future direction of the Underground. We surveyed present Immanuel participant families of the Underground. And then we met to discuss all of this and to wonder how to lead through this. Our goal was not to come up with all the answers, but to wonder together about leading you further in this journey. We took what was on the Big Blue Wall and summarized it on a Small White Board.
One of the things we noticed was that a lot of the categories on the big blue wall were relationship oriented (mentors, prayer partners, model and encourage, intergenerational, youth input). The items in these categories all seem to suggest that a whole lot of us need to be involved in intentional connection with youth. This is likely the most important guiding principle to our next steps in youth ministry. We need to work on creating and taking opportunities to be meaningfully engaged with our children and teenagers. Many of us, not just youth leaders. This is a big and exciting challenge, but also a very attainable goal.
A second area is the question of curriculum – what is being taught? This was one long category on the big blue wall. There are many ideas about curriculum and likely many of them would be helpful. Part of moving forward is for us as parents, leaders, and community being engaged ourselves in the conversations we believe our youth need to have. So, for example, our Sunday worship themes could be the very things we want to talk about with our youth.
A third and final area we noted was the area of service, putting faith into action or applying what we believe in our everyday journey. This was not a large emphasis on the big blue wall in terms of numbers of notes, but we sensed it to be an important part of the forming of faith in our youth.
Along with these three emphases, we also noted that there were a large number and variety of structure ideas – that is, “how” do we deliver these things. We feel, this too, needs to be part of a further conversation. Do our present ministries help us deliver relationships, curriculum, and service? Is there a better model? Our sense was that we need to keep thinking about this together. To that end, we plan to do some intentional evaluation of our present ministries. We also plan to have another gathering with you about all of these things in September. We believe (and we want to check this with you) that any structural change in ministry would need to grow out of what happens when we intentionally engage in relational ministry. There is no simple catch-all solution. The real solution is all of us engaging together.
So, in practical terms: we will carry on with the Underground, albeit with more intentional engagement in the process as they hire a replacement for Beth and as they start the next season. Likewise, our other ministries to children and youth will continue, but we will think together about how else we can do this in a way that helps us all grow in our faith. We will continue to find ways to speak with the youth and in September we will call you together again to carry on this conversation.
As 2018 has come to a close, so does the Bible-in-a-year journey for many of us. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the participation in this and enjoyed hearing comments along the way. It was a challenge; some parts were tough slugging; some passages were surprising; it was a good thing to experience. Personally, I am glad to have done it but would not recommend this as the only reading plan. Ultimately the purpose of reading the Bible is not “to get it done” as much as “to meet Jesus”, whether that be his story in the gospels, teachings about him in the letters, or the history that anticipated him in the Old Testament.
Now for 2019. In keeping with the focus of “meeting Jesus”, the plan is to focus on the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the whole year. We will start the year with a series on the “I am” sayings of Jesus in John. For Lent we will probably plan a series on the Passion of Jesus, as we follow Him to the cross. That planning will be done in conjunction with intern/associate pastor Derek Ellens, as will whatever else we do for the year.
Thanks for getting engaged with the Bible-in-a-year and look forward to a year of being immersed in Jesus stories.