So…It’s not a Church?

“So, it’s not a church?”

Not exactly.

“But you got a call?”

Yes.

“What is it then?”

It’s an emerging faith community for people in their 20’s and 30’s, generally speaking.

“A….community…so….where does it meet?

Um, bars, coffee shops, a place called The Spirit Room

“So you don’t have an actual place.”

Well, wherever you go, there you are. That’s some kind of place.

“And this is the kind of work you want to do?”

YES!!!!!

These are the kinds of conversations I’ve been having with people—especially people in the church I am finishing up at—about my future work. I’ve just accepted a call to The Project F-M (another question I get: What is ‘FM’? Answer: Fargo-Moorhead) and it seems to be kind of confusing to people. People really wish I would be in a church building apparently. (See my post on “Not a Building” for MY thoughts on that.)

But it turns out there are a whole bunch of people in the world who don’t go into buildings called “churches” and don’t attend events called “worship.” Maybe they did once upon a time, but a really large number of young adults just don’t. (See more about this in my post on Somebody That I Used to Know). There are as many reasons for this as there are people. Some people wandered away from church because it didn’t seem relevant to the rest of their lives. There is too much of a cultural commute to take for them to walk in on a regular basis. Some people don’t believe the things they were taught in the churches they grew up in. Whatever the reasons, there are large groups of people who don’t resonate with ‘church.’

So it makes sense to create other kinds of space—sacred space, maybe—for people who don’t find meaning in conventional churches or worship. Even if that space isn’t one we own, or call “ours.” I am really excited about helping to create that kind of a space and be a part of a community that wants to engage in conversations about God and theology and things that hold deeper meaning to them. Even if we don’t use the word ‘church.’

And hey–for those of you who are in conventional churches, or leading conventional churches–please keep doing what you’re doing. It is a faith community for those who call that place a church home. I know that if you started changing drastically to respond to the needs of the people who are not currently in your churches, then all those people who go to church now would be exiles.

Just find ways to support those others who are currently in exile.

And, you can read more about The Project F-M here. (You can even donate there!)

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“Failure to Launch” or the new ‘normal’?

I recently went to a workshop put on by the Barna group called, You Lost Me.

It was a great day, but I take issue with some things. One is a conversation about “Failure to Launch.” They showed the difference between today’s 20’s-30’s achieving these milestones that signify adulthood, and the statistics of a previous generation. Statistics say that far less people today have lived these milestones by the age of thirty. The point was that many young people today have “failed to launch” into adulthood.

The key factors that marked a person (or generation of persons) as a failure had to do with leaving home, attaining economic independence, and forming families of their own. I don’t argue that these things are happening and that we should talk about them, but I do argue with the word “failure” and wonder about how we culturally define adulthood.

Leaving home: While this has been a sign of adulthood in American society in recent history, it is also a mark of our cultural value of independence. There are many cultures throughout the world and down through history for which this would not be seen as a sign of adulthood, or a desired state.

Attaining economic independence: I am unsure if this is about paying your own rent or having a career focused job, or some other sign, but some questions to consider might be these:

  • Is this happening because too many men are in their parents’ basement playing games?
  • Might there be other factors, such as baby boomers not retiring and saturating the market?
  • When they do retire, new hires often look and act like the old ones, but  ten years younger instead of forty years younger (or even twenty years younger) In my field, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, you can see this trend as you look at the newest bishops in the church, who are largely 50+. I am not arguing for twenty-six year old bishops, or even a leadership based on Numbers 8, but some diversity in leadership might be good for the Church.
  • Is it because the economy is tight and less people are hiring?
  • Is it because of a large national conversation in higher education about “vocation” meaning finding a calling, (to put it simply)  rather than just finding a job that pays the bills?

If these are factors, then can we blame individuals? Does the “generational failure” reside with those in their 20’s and 30’s (right now) or with another generation? Is it always a failure?

Forming families of their own: David Kinnaman, who wrote You Lost Me and presented on this topic, has also written a blog about the “The New Normal”  which includes pointing out that there is a “global pause in marriage.” Not just in American society, but across the world, many cultures are delaying marriage. There are good reasons for this. I have friends who did launch in all of these traditional ways—successfully out of the house! Successfully married! Successfully breeding! And at such a young age that now they are “unlaunched” or launch aborted. Some of those divorces were incredibly painful. While I have witnessed some great marriages, I can also say there are far worse things that remaining single.

I also think of my friends in the LGBTQ  community. Anyone can form a family, but for LGBTQ folks, they are often not recognizable as such to the government, the church, or a research group if they are defining family in a heternormative way. This, along with the sometimes long and painful process of coming out will probably delay the step of forming a family.

Twenty-two years ago I moved out of my parents’ house at eighteen. I got a college degree, started my first career. I’ve spent 3 months back in my parents’ house since then in between jobs. I became one of the “new normal” of “educated capable young women” who owns a house. But since I am not married and did not have children, I guess that means I failed to launch.

The valid point of talking about this during the “You Lost Me” presentation was to point out how churches are ill-equipped to deal with the “new normal.” I agree with this, because our churches are often very family-centric and heteronormative. But the “new normal” is still called a failure. It is a failure which Jesus would have (probably) been familiar with, because (as far as we know) he also failed to be economically independent. His family (see Mark 3: 31-35) was the people around him—perhaps like the “urban tribes” we hear about as forming new definitions of family. He seems to have walked around a lot, living an itinerant life. He didn’t live much longer after 30, so I guess we’ll never know if he would have eventually become a successfully-launched adult.

Can we please use different words?