Generations and the “Church”

While fishing around on websites looking for ideas for how to do ministry in the culture of the 21st century, I was checking out the Facebook page for and stumbled onto Erik Ullestad’s blog (Family Life & Youth Director at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in Iowa) and an article he talked about on the Alban Institute’s web site by Carol Howard Merritt, pastor of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington DC. You can read the entire article at Erik highlighted a couple of paragraphs which I would also like to share with you.

I cannot remember a time when the church was the hub of society and life. I was born in the 1970s, part of Generation X. I never lived in a church-centered world. When older members of my congregation tell me about it, I can imagine what it might have been like, just as I can envision a time when people went to church three times a week. But I have never lived in that reality. I’ve always been in a culture where church was a place my friends visited on Christmas Eve—and now even that tradition is beginning to fade. I grew up in the midst of church news filled with clergy affairs, prostitution, and pedophilia. Throughout most of my ministry, I have worked in the shadow of these dark wounds of Christianity, laboring in a world in which the church is renowned for its sex scandals and conservative politics, a world in which people proclaim, “Religion poisons everything.” 

This is the culture I know. And this, strangely, is the place I feel most comfortable. It is not that I am happy about our current circumstances but simply that I have not experienced anything else. When I introduce myself as a pastor at parties or neighborhood gatherings, I encounter little awe or respect. Instead, I am met with a ravenous curiosity, as if people did not even realize it was still possible to make that career choice.

I need to keep reminding myself that Baby Boomer approaches to “renewing the church” may not make much sense to Gen X’s or Millennials, and that reminds me that I need to take the time to listen to what they have to say. While the mission of the church may not have changed much for the past 2000 years, how that mission gets lived out in the daily grind of life has. The constitutional changes in the ELCA calling for a minimum of 10% representation on synod councils, church councils, committee’s, etc, be youth and young adults isn’t so that they can become like us old guys, it’s so the “church” can be transformed to carry out it’s mission effectively in the culture of the 21st century.

Hey, I just see that Project Connect is offering a workshop to help pastors equip, discern, and journey with young emerging adults. It takes place on Tuesday, June 14, 10am-2pm at Advent Lutheran Church in Manhattan. Send your pastor. Contact Pastor Andy Fetters with questions and /or to let him know that your pastor will be attending.

                                                            deacon Charlie Germain


About deacon Charlie Germain

Chair - Child Youth & Family Ministry Committee - Metropolitan New York Synod Love to camp, hike, canoe, ski, and just be in the outdoors!
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