Monday, July 7, 2008

Gen X & Y-ing Out?

Greetings friends, sisters and brothers!

Nick asked for additional authors and I decided to answer the call. I come from the "quality-over-quantity" school of thought, so look for at least one post each month from me.

To give you a really brief personal intro at Nick's request (more to come soon, I promise): My name is Nadine, I'm 30, I live in Philadelphia and I've been blogging for a few years on various topics. (Hey, Nick, how 'bout putting short bios in the column?)

And, now, for the post:

Over my lunch break at work, I save about 15 minutes for scanning a few favorites on the Interwebs. Recently, I saw this article by Marty Cauley on the Albany Institute's blog and my jaw practically hit the desk. (Please read it! The link will open in a separate tab or window for you. It makes it easy to get back to this post when you're done.)

There, in black and white, is what seems to be a line-in to my brain.

Over the years as a member of the Church of the Brethren, there have been several occasions on which I've - seemingly - been asked to be the voice of all the young adults/youth the congregation has "trouble" attracting. I don't ask to be that voice and I don't pretend to speak for others. After all, I actually was at church and committed to being there on a regular basis.

But I feel this article clearly states three of the key points I fumblingly tried to articulate in my teens and twenties. (For the record, I strongly identify with Marty's third, fourth and fifth points, though I also like what he wrote in the first two.) The jewel is this quote:

They see it as hypocritical when the church states how important their presence is but develops program for them but not with them...

I can't tell you how many times I asked this when I was growing up! I'd leave church camp or NYC all geared up to contribute, feeling so empowered, only to get home and be told what was fun and meaningful.

So, seeing from the poll that most of you are in the Gen X, Gen Y and Millenial age groups, what do you think of Marty's article? Does it touch on any themes you notice as areas for improvement in the life of the church when it comes to young adults/youth? Are there other points you'd highlight that were missed?

Blessings in Christ,

P.S.: Favorite semi-related quote
From Gruntled Center blog

"Several years ago, when some well-meaning but ineffectual Boomer was gassing on about our good intentions in church, I turned to Mrs. G. and asked (quietly), 'Can't we just pay the Xers to take over now?'"


Nico said...

I think this article touches on a very important point regarding the church's slipping grip not just on young adults, but on everyone - people want clear definition, not "watered down" ritual.

I see some of this as socially constructed: we live in an age in which, if you want someone to read what you write, you need to make it a bullet list (I was just reading an article about this). Young people are bombarded with messages all day long and only decipher the sharpest and clearest of them.

Unfortunately (to me, and here is where I say something controversial) I think this causes a flocking to churches that are more ready to "tell you what to think" than the Church of the Brethren tends to be.

Now, I would never be one to change our practices to "whatever seems to be working." What's popular has seldom been what is right, and I vaguely recall a quote in Messenger some years ago about a church that is like a shallow sea - miles wide, but only a few feet deep. We should be concerned about getting our message to people and keeping them from fleeing our midst, but we should be cautious of measuring our success merely by how many people we can advertise into our churches.

We do need to ask what we need to change in order to be relevant to young people. In this, I think we have problems with our message. I have always taken pride in the Church of the Brethren as a place where I can have my own thoughts and feelings, where nobody tells me what my relationship with Christ has to look like or given me some specific creed I have to follow. That is in our nature, and I don't think we need to reform it... but we do need to be clearer about things.

It seems to me that we swing wildly between being at each others' throats over absolutely everything (AC business meetings) and being so soft-spoken that we let relevant concerns become hazy. Instead of a clear but complete message that emphasizes coming together and boldly approaching the real issues of morality, spirituality, politics, etc. that we all face (and don't, and don't have to, agree on).

I guess that's what I'm hoping this blog will help to accomplish - a real conversation about real issues for young people.

If any of that makes sense.

Nadine said...

Nick, I agree with ya! My personal feeling is much the same: telling people what to believe in place of encouraging them to develop their personal walk with Jesus is - again, just my personal feeling here folks - the falling-down point as well.

And speaking of being at each others' throats during Annual Conference, I wasn't surprised by the "discussion" on the Resolution Urging Forebearance. In fact, it could have been much worse. However, it reinforces my perception that when people speak to an issue saying how others will use it as a means to achieve their desired ent, that speaker is expressing a guilty conscience because that's ultimately his/her plan or something he/she has done before.