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At the end of the first blog on “Ministry to and with Millenials and GenZ” I said that I would give some ideas of what the church can do to engage with these emerging adults. You might have been eagerly awaiting a list of programs and strategies for Immanuel to do: and while we will eventually get to some of that, the most important thing I learned about what the church can do for the young adults and teenagers in their communities is for each one of us to seek them out, engage with them, find out what matters to them, and know them.
There will be several opportunities for you to discuss these things further and to begin to un-pack this information as it applies to Immanuel. The staff has started reading Growing Young and will be processing each chapter, and then bringing a plan for strategy to the congregation. This book is based on 4 years of extensive research with over 500 young adults, and over 300 churches, searching for ways to keep and connect youth/emerging adults with the church. It’s a positive, hopeful book, sharing how it is possible for any church to “grow young” despite the trend of teens/young adults leaving the church. And when a church grows young, it makes a positive impact on all aspects of church life – “In a kingdom win/win, stronger ministry to young people bulks up the ministry muscles of the entire congregation, and vice versa.” (p. 42)
We will also offer an “Adult Education” class on Sundays, starting Sunday, Sept. 22 after worship (lunch provided) based in part on the “Growing Young” book. This is for any and all of you who want to learn more about becoming a church that is “growing young:” parents of teens and young children, those of us who are “almost” finished parenting, those of you who are grandparents, and those of you who love youth and want to be a part of a church that loves youth! So… anybody and everybody!!
While the book outlines six essential strategies that a church needs to embrace in order to “grow young” we were all encouraged by these 10 qualities that your church does NOT need in order to grow young. While some of these things are still important, they were not THE thing that the research found made a church attractive to youth. The list my surprise you.
I would like to invite you to pray, join, and engage in the learning. Stay tuned for continued details and communication regarding how we hope to engage Immanuel in being a church that is “growing young.”
In Christ, Ruth Ann
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.