The past four days have been in the category of “insanely busy” for me. I can barely even begin to convey the amount of activity that I have experienced. Curse this sunny weather, what I need is a couple of snow days! You know, sixteen inches of snow on top of an inch of ice with temperatures in the low teens – stuck at home, darn it, and no possible way to get out to do anything.
Anyway, enough with the “Oh, I’m so busy” schtick …
One of the things occupying my time these last few days was our district’s Lay Leadership Training event, at which I was leading a workshop titled “The Ministry of Young Adults.” (See my two previous posts for some more info.) Overall the workshop went really well, I thought. There were twelve people in my workshop (over 200 attended the event), representing five different churches.
The first thing we tried to do was get past thinking of young adults as objects, rather than subjects. We talked about the dangers of using terms like ministry “to” young adults or “for” young adults or even “with” young adults, since this thinking artificially separates young adults from the church and makes the church the primary actor and the young adult the passive recipient. Instead we thought about ministry “of” young adults, which is a mindset that affirms that young adults themselves are the church and not a separate animal, and that we have inherent gifts and graces for ministry.
Using a set of four case studies, we tried to expand our idea of what “church” is. We tried to avoid any gimmicky, “Easy button” style ministry. It was good to see that most people have abandoned thinking, “If we could only get the right curriculum, we would have young adults here” or “If we only had a guitar player…” or “If we could just get a big screen in our sanctuary…” etc. etc. Making the church vital for young adults involves a shift in thinking, not the addition of a new program.
Here are some other insights of the workshop:
- Most people think of young adults as younger versions of themselves, when in reality young adults are a diverse group: different ethnically, racially, socio-economically, children or not, married or not, in school or working or not, etc. So when a church seeks to enhance the ministry of young adults, it is a much broader endeavor than most churches are envisioning.
- Young adults respond to authentic relationships more than fancy programs. If a church has passion and energy, if a church “keeps it real,” if a church allows people to participate together in something they can take home with them with some relevance to their lives, then the struggle to engage in young adult ministry will not be such a struggle.
- It is not a matter so much of getting more young adults into the church. It is a matter of re-thinking what church is such that young adults know that they are the church, wherever they happen to be.
- Saying, “We have always done it that way, so we are not changing,” is not faithful to the commandment to love your neighbor, since reaching out to new neighbors may involve changing things. Saying, “We have to change or we are going to die,” is not faithful to the commandment to love God, since it is focused purely on self-preservation and maintaining the bare minimum, rather than participating in the abundant life to which God calls us. Rather than either of these, we need to think of this call as, “Change as an act of faith.” In other words, we must change, but not in order to preserve the church. Rather, we must change because God is calling us to do so.
Although there was more we discussed, these are the most fundamental things we talked about for that hour and a half last Sunday. I hope that some good happened, some seeds were planted. I know that I really got a lot out of it, and learned a bunch from the people there. I just want the church to be a place where all people, young and old, feel like they can encounter the living presence of God and form meaning for their lives.
According to our Conference definition, I have but one more year to be a “young adult.” After that, I’m not sure exactly what I will be; I guess I’ll have to grow up or something. ;)