It’s always risky to tweet during a meeting…
Meeting with @MarkMolden @wendybeechward and a whole host of other interesting peeps talking about how we disciple this rising generation
I wanted to let my friends and followers know that we were doing something about the exodus of children and young people from the church and so the above tweet was secretly released from the meeting unbeknownst to the other participants. I didn’t want to say “Next Generation” because that assumes that children and young people have not got anything to offer now – it relegates them to being the invisible generation before they become the “missing generation”. So I used the term “rising generation.” Probably thinking about the Rising 5s we talk about in education.
It’s risky to tweet in a meeting as it’s hard to reply, so no chance to respond to this one:
@krishk 20 years ago I was in a ‘rising generation’ too, or so people said. I don’t trust labels like that any more. #hype
Jon has written a helpful blog post in response to my tweet. I don’t know Jon well, but he seems to be expressing the way that many young adults I know feel about the church.
In order to inspire, excite and motivate young people we over promised what Christianity could look like for them. In the safety of a youth event or even the ongoing youthwork, isolated from adults in the church who were trying to live out their faith with the challenges of family, work, bills to pay and neighbours to get along with – we told our young people they could be world changers, history makers or that revival was just around the corner. Then when the reality and sometimes the mundane routines of life hit – they sound like over hyped empty promises. Jon, I am sorry we did that to you and many others like you.
In youth ministry we need to help young people to dream big but also to stay grounded.
I don’t think its just youth ministry that does this to young people. I was educated in the state school system. Most of the children in my schools were from working class backgrounds. But in assemblies our teachers did try to inspire us by great men and women from the past. We had assemblies on Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King, Lord Shaftesbury, Gandhi and many other world changing leaders. Our teachers were sowing dreams into our young minds – helping us imagine our futures and thinking about what we could do and be in the world. I think there is a place for this. One of the little boys in my local church told me recently that when he grows up he wants to work in the Co-op, when i asked him what other dreams he had for his future he told me he might be up for working in Sainsburies or Waitrose. He’s a lovely lad who’s had a difficult life so far. Part of helping him to flourish is to help him find something he’s great at and for him to imagine a different future than the past he has known. So there is room for the inspirational challenge to young people. In one sense it values young people to help them get a glimpse of their potential.
But we need to do this without:
i) endorsing celebrity culture – often social change comes through networks rather than individuals
ii) offering unrealistic expectations of revival, personal fame or exaggerated urgency about the return of Christ
But we must help to ground young people in the realities of the normal christian life. I have written for Christianity Magazine and Youthwork magazine about the need for intergenerational ministry as our young people do not see many role models of ordinary adult christian life. Young people often see the youth worker, the pastor and some celebrity worship leaders as the dominant model of the Christian life which is unrealistic and can lead to disillusionment later on in life.
My friend David Kinaman has produced a very helpful book that begins to wrestle with some of these issues from a US perspective: ‘You Lost Me.”
I am very keen that we learn from Jon’s experience and do things better into the future. Do you have any ideas of how we bless the current generation of young adults – inspire them without hyping things up?