Two of Us: New ways to church
This is the first part of Two of Us: New Ways to Church. Bradon French works across the VicTas Synod and the national church to discover new ways to engage in intergenerational ministry. We asked him what the Church could do better.
What could the church do better to meet the needs of millennials and young families?
It took six drafts of this article to land at my answer to this familiar question, and here goes – the church needs to less things better. In fact, we need to do less things altogether. We need to be the church. Being busy doesn’t equate to being effective.
And before you scoff, I’m not hiding behind the easy, simple answer. Our history tells us we’ve always struggled to do this.
Early drafts highlighted the difference and distinctiveness of younger generations. Some pointed to external influences that allow us to surrender to the challenge and miss the opportunity. Other drafts mapped a history of courageous responses to this question that every church has faced since the industrial revolution. For your sake, and mine, we cannot hind behind missional paralysis.
Millennials (young adults), and whatever label we use for today’s teenagers, are indeed complex, however they, like their predecessors, are seeking to form identity, discover purpose and place within this society we’re entrusting to their care and leadership. To define them by their gadgets, or to generalise them under labels and clickbait hyperbole is a disservice to their individual experiences and potential.
Throughout our history, the Uniting Church has made courageous claims and inspiring commitments. We should be proud of our stance on climate, welcoming those seeking refuge, a healthy response to drugs and many more issues that are part of the lived experience of young people. However these claims, like economics I suppose, rarely trickle down to our congregations. Our gatherings reflect social trends when social gatherings were trendy. Whereas once the church played a role in helping young people discover their place and purpose, perhaps today young people could show the church her place and purpose, if we have ears to listen.
Going back to my original answer. Identify your community values and celebrate them. Tweaking worship styles, starting a Facebook page or adding an additional social gathering aren’t a revolution.
Stopping doing things, and re-discover how to be resurrection people.
Articulate your stories of transformation in language and ways that connect with young people (and yes, that will mean outside weekly worship gatherings). Interrogate your expectations of leaders, your church budget and your church council decisions to determine if they prioritise connecting with young people. Practice sabbath and hospitality, and share those with people.
Bradon French Intergenerational Ministry – Youth, Uniting Church Synod of VicTas.
Read Part Two here.