Today I am picking up the conversation about what the church might be able to learn from millennials. In continuing the conversation started a couple days ago, here are five other observations that stand out about the implications and opportunities millennials may present to the church.
Millennials value authenticity, and because of this they value authentic stories– in preaching, leading and relationship. They want to know the deeper story (like in the work around authentic stories done by Humans of New York). Millennials don’t want just a Bible Study in the sermon. They want to see what is being preached lived out in life and the way the church or faith community exists. They want to know what questions people are contemplating, what parts of the faith journey are being struggles, and they want to be met in authentic relationship. They desire to be valued as equals by others in their communities and by their communities’ leaders and pastors. The idea of some people being “set apart” over others does not sit well with them, and pastors that hold such an idea of leadership and of pastoring often may frustrate, alienate or altogether lead to millennials leaving a particular faith community (and sometimes, sadly, the larger church) altogether.
Millennials may signify new opportunities for connections and connection making because being connected and connecting people and ideas is something that is seemingly second-nature to millennials. To see this, one only has to witness the way millennials use and engage social media. But beyond the connecting online, millennials connect ideas from different spheres of influence and study with different areas and subjects in their life. In this sense, they are networkers but also able to connect meaning in ways that may not have seemed possible, necessary or even considered before.
Millennials seem to have, more than prior generations, a spirit and desire to collaborate because they see themselves as part of something bigger than themselves and want to be able to help do some good in the world. In their service they look or find depth and are able to make meaning out of why they are doing what they are doing. Thinking of a particular faith understanding, for Lutherans this might mean being able to better connect the work and theological meaning of the work of related non-profits and organizations like Lutheran World Relief to the life of a particular congregation. Millennials love partnership, and because of this they not to be as afraid of giving others power. They are happy to share power and decision making for the sake of the larger need. A good example is the “Friend Raiser” model employed by MIDTOWN Church.
Millennials are cautiously optimistic and hopeful. They love helping others and generally appreciate opportunities to affirm other people in the work they do. For the church this may mean people who can help teach the church how to affirm people in their daily life (vocations). Everyone brings something beautiful and unique to the table. I believe this has great potential for a new way of deeply articulating what it means to be Children of God, and to be beautifully unique, diverse and loved.
Millennials desire and yearn for depth. Traditional Bible studies and being told what is important doesn’t really resonate for millennials. There is a deep desire to connect, wrestle, question and engage multiple senses and life with faith. This reiterates the importance of connection and meaning making unpacked above. I also think this speaks to the opportunities presented by some church related undergraduate institutions like Centers of Faith and Life or other such places. If congregations and faith communities open up opportunities for depth and intentionally allow space for it, they may be more likely to engage millennials.
What do you think of these observations and potential opportunities? Do you agree or disagree? What other observations or ideas do you have? What your ideas are will shape the next post in this series so please let me know what you think and join the conversation. I believe it’s an important one for the church.
Tuesday on my blog means that I get to share some of what I have found interesting and thought provoking with all of you. To this end, this week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!
Dan Rockwell shared a number of great posts yet again this past week. One of my absolute favorites of his in quite some time is, “5 Essentials for Developing Remarkable Leaders.” The five essentials are: put them in high-challenging roles; assign them to a short-term task force; give real-time feedback; provide them with coaches and mentors; and offer them classroom courses and seminars.
Cranston Holden offered a good reminder in his post, “Assume Others Mean Well.” I appreciate his conclusion where he writes, “Assuming others mean well means, your are mentally tough and not offended at the drop of a hat. You can let the little things go and show a high level of maturity, reduce arguments and lower tension.” Give the whole post a read and some thought.
Heidi Oran at Thin Difference reflected on the question “What Makes a Truly Great Leader (to Millennials)?” In unpacking this question she shared five thoughts: listeners make the best leaders; sometimes leading is letting go; compassionate leadership is not a sign of weakness; psychology and leadership go hand in hand; and failure is part of great leadership. What do you think? As Heidi asks, “does it vary from generation to generation or are we all seeking the same thing?” Good question.
On the COMPASS blog, an interview with Beryl Jantzi is being featured in which he reflects on the importance of budgeting. Check out the first post in the series here.
Now is the time of year where many parents and families send their children and young adults off to school, and some for the first time off to college. For those of you experiencing the latter, Becky Blades shared, “3 Sacred Rules of of College Drop-Off.” What do you think of these rules?
Now for a moment of plain truth. My roommate and best friend from college, Tyler Scott, is kind of ridiculous. If you don’t know what I mean, read this post, “Save the date.” While he is ridiculous, he is also great for a good laugh. Thanks for sharing Tyler!
My wife Allison wrote about her “Top 5,” a list of the top 5 things, people and ideas that she currently seems to keep coming back to.
If you are like me and my wife Allison, you probably love to go mini-golfing. If you also find yourself in Minnesota, then you might want to give the mini-golf at Centennial Lakes a try. I am intrigued, are you?
That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. As always, if there are particular questions or ideas you would like me to wrestle with on the blog please let me know. Also, let me know if there are particular ideas or types of articles you would like me to include in the links. Until next time, thanks for reading and blessings on your week! -TS
This past weekend I had the chance to participate in an open-space conversation on the purpose and practices of lay theological education. As part of this discussion, there emerged a recognition and need to talk openly with and about millennials. How can the church engage them? How can the church meet them where they are at? As one of probably only two actual millennials in the conversation I had to avoid being a “token voice” but overall, I enjoyed the conversation. I have talked about the implications of millennials some with my parents and some in my parents’ generation, but had never really before seen the topic be engaged by a gathering of people my parent’s generation. My fellow millennials, I think you would have been pleasantly surprised by what the gathered group had to say about millennials. There is a lot of energy around them in the church and the opportunity and possibilities they might provide.
This leads me to wondering today though, what are the gifts and opportunities that millennials provide the church? I don’t use the term “provide” in a commodity like sense for the church, rather I think that millennials through their perspectives and values may be part of a seminal moment in the life of the church (and at least specifically of the denomination that I am a part of, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).
This is no exhaustive list, but so far I have come up with seven things that stand out. In this post, I will share the first two. The rest I will share in a post later this week.
Millennials who are present or at least engaged in some kind of ministry, force the church to wrestle with questions. To be a part of something or to engage with something millennials are likely to consider and think deeply about the basic questions of why, who, what, how and where. These are important questions that congregations, faith communities and the larger church should always be forced to wrestle with but often do not reflect on them and take the answers to the questions for granted. By wrestling with these questions though, there is space to really wonder, for example, what might be possible and what God might be up to and calling and leading a congregation to be a part of.
Building off the previous point, millennials are adept at allowing space for questions and the ability to leave a question open without an easy answer. You aren’t likely going to find an easy answer to a question as deep and profound like “what might God be up to here.” However, that fact actually may excite millennials who aren’t looking for easy answers. Millennials, like many people of faith are looking for those who allow the questions to be questions and give space to wondering about them. When there are easy answers there is less gray area, and at least from a Lutheran theological perspective, that doesn’t seem to correlate well with the many tensions and paradox which Lutheran theological ideas seem to create and leave room for.
Until picking up this conversation on Wednesday, what do you think the church can learn from millennials?
Every once and awhile a big question pops into my head. Sometimes I think about those questions and am completely focused on them. Sometimes I ignore the questions because I am just too busy. Other times I write the questions down and allow myself time to reflect and wrestle with them.
I seem to have had a lot of questions lately. In fact, far more questions than answers have come to mind. That is probably a good thing because I have always found life to be more fulfilling and exciting with questions than answers. The questions have reached a point though where I think I ought to write them down and share them rather than hoard them all to myself.
The questions that follow are grouped by a couple categories: congregations, ministry and nonprofits; leadership; stewardship; and vocation and miscellaneous. Give these questions some thought. If ideas, other questions or wondering strikes you about any of these, please let me know in the comments below, via Twitter, Facebook and/or email. All of these questions would likely make for a great individual blog post and I may treat them as such in the coming days and weeks. But until then, I would love to share these with you and see if you have any insights for me.
Congregations, Ministry and Nonprofits
1) How can faith communities and congregations better create space for those suffering depression?
2) How can non-profits and congregations innovate; and most effectively financially create, allow and sponsor innovation?
3) What function and purpose does a congregational council serve if they report to the pastor? What are the differences between this model and the other usual way of a pastor reporting to the council? What are the potential implications?
4) What will it be like to serve in an interim capacity on staff in a congregation?
5) What advice about life would my current self tell my younger self from two years ago?
Tuesday on my blog means that I get to share some of what I have found thought provoking and interesting with all of you. This week’s edition is full of good stuff from ministry job openings to travel journals, to thoughts about millennials and stewardship. The topic categories for this week are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship and Vocation. I hope you enjoy these links!
If you too have wondered about what we can do to overcome the polarity in society, check out this idea called “From Where I Sit” from LEAD. Being able to talk and share different perspectives is key to being able to meet each other and from there serve the needs of the common good and society.
Dan Rockwell shared a number of wonderful posts this past week. I particularly loved his post, “15 Ways to Lead with Heart.” The list is fantastic. A couple of my favorite ways that leaders with heart lead are: they say what they really think; live by values more than results; admit their own mistakes; ask forgiveness for offenses; express gratitude and support the development of teammates and teams. Check out the whole list!
The tributes about Warren Bennis continue to be written and should continue to be written. Will Yakowicz shared these great “Leadership Lessons from Leadership Guru Warren Bennis.” The lessons are: leaders are made, not born; leadership is like beauty; leading means deeply affecting others; a leader is self-aware; curiosity and risk-taking make a leader; a leader sees the big picture; and the leader does right.
Jon Mertz shared this post from Danny Rubin, “Explaining What You Do to Your Parents.” I have a hunch that most millennials struggle with this. In wrestling with this Danny shared five key points: your parents won’t “get it” right away; the simpler, the better; compare your job to something from the 70s; no need for devices; and remember, they gave birth to you. Spend some time with this!
In this day and age where it is so hard to have a conversation without it leading to polarities and people being placed and categories or boxes, Andrew W.K. shared this important post and response, “Ask Andrew W.K.: My Dad is a Right Wing…”
There have been so many neighbor love stories this past week. The death of an unarmed man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; the loss of Robin Williams, the on-going potential genocide in Iraq, just to name a few. In response to some of these, Pastor Timothy Brown shared some timely reflections in “Death on Vacation.”
In another timely post, blogger and theologian Rachel Held Evans shared this post, “Mental Illness & The Church: An Interview with Amy Simpson.” I greatly appreciated this post, especially this perspective, “I feel like I have a front-row seat on God’s gracious work, and I am more convinced than ever of the truth of Romans 8:35-38. Absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love. If death and hell themselves don’t have that power, mental illness certainly doesn’t.”
Related to this post, Nate Pyle wrote, “Learning to Listen in the Wake of Ferguson.” Give this a read and spend some time wrestling with the questions Nate concludes the post with, “Who have you been listening to? What do you think is your responsibility?”
Friend and blogger Hannah Heinzekehr shared this beautiful post to her daughter, “On Being Two: A Letter to Toddler E.” I love this on so many levels. I hope all parents feel like writing such things. Just to really get you to read it, here are a few little lines that stand out: “I hope that you always feel surrounded by a community who loves you. I hope that you find ways to see God’s lure in your life, and that you would feel brave enough to follow wherever it might lead you. And I hope that you never lose the exuberance you have now for aging. May you be ready to greet each new year with a resounding exclamation point, whether you are celebrating “two” or ‘twenty’ or ‘forty’ or ‘fifty-five.’ We love you more than you will probably ever be able to really comprehend.” Read and share this!
My wife Allison wrote another wonderful post, admitting the problems and challenges on-going in life and the world now, but also the fact of being “Reminded” of some wonderful memories (in part thanks to friend Kaitlyn Ferguson).
That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always if there are particular questions or topics that you would like me to wrestle with on the blog, or types of articles to include in the links, please let me know. Until next time, thanks for reading and blessings on your week! -TS
I’m excited to announce a new pilot project I am helping get off the ground with LEAD.
“Have you ever tried to talk about a major issue in society or the world with your family members or friends? Was it a positive experience? Or did the conversation turn into a debate or argument with polar opposite views, anger, and frustration?
If you found yourself nodding your head in agreement with the last question, LEAD has an invitation for you. LEAD is launching a new program called From Where I Sit to start conversations around difficult topics in communities, congregations and faith communities.”
We are looking for interested volunteers to host conversations and see how our process works and could be improved. Read more at the LEAD Blog.
Tuesday usually means that I get to share some of what I have found interesting and thought-provoking over the past week with all of you. Because I didn’t quite complete these yesterday, this week’s edition comes on Wednesday. Hopefully the extra wait was worth it. In terms of what is covered this week, topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!
Church and Ministry Thought & Practice
If you are preparing to preach or lead worship this coming weekend, check out some reflections by Pastor Don Carlson on Bishop Mike Rinehart’s blog about the appointed lectionary readings. Related to this, also see David Lose’s post in advance of this weekend’s gospel reading about “What the Canaanite Woman teaches.”
Here’s a post that can be put in the “What to Not Do” File. Ron Edmondson shared, “21 Ways to Keep a Church from Growing.” It’s such a great list, but far too much to list it in its entirety. Here are 4 ways that really struck me though: only do “church” inside the building; put more energy into structure than serving; the ministerial staff does everything; and be stingy investing in the next generation. As Ron says, do the opposite of these ways. Be sure to see the whole list, it’s an important one!
Paul VanDeCarr shared, “4 Questions to Develop Your Storytelling Strategy.” The questions are: What do we want to achieve?; Who can help us achieve our goals?; How do we reach our target audiences?; And what stories do I tell them, or ask them to tell? Check this out!
Julian Stodd explains about a “Business Covenant” writing that “We need a new covenant between business, government and society. One that delivers value over time.”
Leadership Thought & Practice
Karin Hurt shared, “10 Questions Your Team is Afraid to Ask.” One of the questions posed is a personal favorite, “Why are we doing it this way?” If you are too afraid to ask that question then group think sets in, and innovation and clarity may well go out the window. What questions are you (or your team) afraid to ask?
Steve also asked two great questions. First, “Where have all the Servants Gone?” I think he is quite right when he writes, “The more ‘serving’ as a leader is recognized the more likely leaders are to serve.” What do you think? Second, he asked, “Do you have a vision?” This is such an important question that needs to be reflected on often.
Lolly Daskal writes that, “Leadership Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.” She offers these thoughts for going beyond one’s comfort zone: be smart and challenge yourself; be fearless and challenge the vision; be daring and challenge the organization; be heroic and challenge the stakeholders; be innovative and challenge best practices; be strong and challenge the culture; and be bold and challenge the talent.
Jon Mertz shared a guest post by Andrew Brushfield asking, “Are You Respected in the Workplace?” As part of the post Andrew shared six traits of highly respected bosses, which are: be a mentor; be real; give credit where credit is due; set expectations; lead by example; and be firm, but fair.
In the midst of fear and uncertainty from health crises like Ebola, one of the major things that happens (unfortunately) is mis-information (and the panic that can cause). Michael Lester and Jeffrey Kluger help set the record straight, in “Watch a Science Cop Take on Donald Trump” who recently has said somethings that are no where near fact.
In the on-going humanitarian crisis and war in Iraq, there comes this report that “Up to 70 percent” of the Yazidis may be dead. Tom Murphy asked if there is “A Genocide in Iraq.” If the reports I have seen are accurate, I have to wonder, when will the international community step up and announce that there are not only war crimes happening here, it’s altogether genocide which must be stopped now!
Friend and pastor Diane Roth shared this post, “Elijah without Exegesis.” I love Diane’s closing thoughts where she writes, “being curious is more important, in some ways, than understanding. And being inside the story, however you might manage it: is the beginning of wisdom.” Give the whole post a read!
Blogger Rachel Held Evans reflected “On Forgiveness and Abuse.” This is an important read which I hope you will give some time to. Within this post, she shares four thoughts to build and further the conversation. The thoughts are: forgiveness does not require staying in an abusive situation; forgiveness does not require accepting empty apologies or trusting the bully/abuser; grace does not require remaining silent about bullying and abuse; and forgiveness and grace do not preclude justice or demand superficial reconciliation.
Friend and Ph.D. student Amanda Brobst-Renaud shared two wonderful posts. First, “On Density and Walking on Water.” To show you how wonderful this is, check out this excerpt from Amanda: “If courage means living from the heart, then vulnerability must mean being brave enough to be human. It means that we try to walk on water, knowing we will sink every time. It means knowing that we are loved beyond belief, even though we don’t feel like we are fabulous. Jesus doesn’t eradicate our faults or make us impervious to our surroundings or our neighbors before he loves us. Instead, he beckons us to tell the truth, to be courageous, to be vulnerable.”
Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon from the past weekend, “Operational Risk Management.” Sounds like the perfect medley for someone with passion around leadership, ministry and theology, doesn’t it?
Friends and pastors Amanda and Jeremy Ullrich made the local paper in Lubbock, Texas in a story detailing the beginning of their first calls in ministry and their new chapters in their lives and vocational journeys.
That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if there are particular questions or topics that you would like me to wrestle with on the blog please let me know. Also, if there are particular types of articles or stories you would like included in the links, please let me know that too. Thanks for reading, and until next time, blessings on your week! -TS