I must confess that I am begrudgingly jumping into the ongoing and often opinionated conversation about the Mosaic or Millennial Generation - those born between the early 1980's and the early 2000's. I tried really hard to refrain, but as someone who works with and knows well many people from this generation my frustration level continued to rise as the conversation raged on.
Many people have been talking about and unfortunately for this amazing group of individuals who are classified as a part of this generation. Some of what has been written is incredibly wise, well thought out, and helpful; others...not so much. Many of the pieces are about the long studied and over-analyzed faith and religious practices of this generation (or the perceived lack thereof) and the panic that should produce in the church. As you can imagine, there is no small amount of 'wisdom' being offered as to how the church can reverse these trends, reach this generation, and help them become a part of the church. This is how we often do things in the church. We examine the research and react to what we think the research means. We plan and program and plan some more certain that we have found the magic potion that will attract a specific generation to our doors only to be disappointed by the results. Then we over-react to our failings.
Can I make a suggestion?
Perhaps it is time for us to do things differently. Perhaps it is time for us to stop studying, categorizing, and pigeonholing this generation (or any generation for that matter). Perhaps it is time for us as the church to do the hard work of getting to know the Millennials in our city, town, neighborhood, and church. Chances are pretty high that those who live in our own area are wonderfully unique and defy many of the convenient categories we have created for them.
And, I hate to be the bearer of bad news (especially since I have been charged with proclaiming the opposite), there isn't a magic potion, tragically hip program, or specific worship style that will bring anyone flooding into the church doors. There never has been. That doesn't mean that we should stop being innovative, creative, and willing to change. That should never cease to be true. However, we must be careful chasing fads and fancy new ideas in hopes that they will somehow cure all that ails us. Whatever it is that we decide to do must ultimately grow out of the ethos of who our congregations are. Anything else is disingenuous, transparent, and nearly impossible to maintain because it is not reflective of who we are. This means that we must do the difficult work of discovering our identity as a local church. We should then lift up and celebrate the best of what is discovered and work toward admitting and working through the worst. Each location, each manifestation of the Body of Christ, has unique and wonderful qualities and characteristics about the way in which they have served as a community of faith, a community of hope, a community of love, and a community of witness (Book of Order, F-1.0301). I believe that if we can prayerfully rediscover who we are as local congregations and live out of and back into that identity as the local Body of Christ, we will be amazed at the wonderful things God calls and empowers us to do as we bear witness to the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And maybe, when we are able to speak with clarity about and act authentically out of our identity, others will be drawn to partner with us as we live out our unique expression of faith, hope, love, and witness to our communities.