I shared this blog post by one of my former professors from Luther Seminary today with the following statement, “We need to start answering these questions…and we need to start answering them differently than we have in the past…” The blog post is related to the information shared in an USA Today article about the “Nones” of religious affiliation. Read the article here.
In my four years at seminary I was challenged to think differently about why we do what we do. Very rarely were we given the “answer”. We were pushed to answer the question in our own context. Not being given the answers can be very frustrating and at the same time really freeing, as we are able to move through the changes and the hopes on our own. More importantly we are not just taking something from another “expert” or church and forcing it to fit into our context.
The struggle comes when we really have little ideas of what change looks like or how do we change things to engage people differently. I’ve read many books on change and articles on change that lay out why change is hard, why people don’t like it and how we can go about engaging these challenges. But most of the time I read these and I go into hiding because of the challenges I would face or the church would face. There are so many unknowns associated with change, it can be overwhelming. And not knowing how to start can become even more overwhelming.
I remember the first course I took at seminary. It was basically deconstructing what I had built youth ministry up to in my mind. I remember sitting around that second day of class thinking to myself, “If what I’m learning is true, and I feel that it is, then I can’t go back.” I was struggling. That is when my professor, Dr. Nancy Going, said the following to me, “Go back and change the things you have control over. Start there and talk about why you are changing.” I have held onto those words for the past years and they continue to remind me, things will not change as fast as we would like them to, but we need to continue to look past the hurdles.
BUT, with this new report from Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, how will the Church respond? We have seen the statistics for many years and yet there have been few changes in how we do what we do as a Church. The questions Nancy asks at the end of the post are critical to the current generation found in our children’s and youth ministries. How are we engaging this generation in a way they connect faith to something that is alive and challenging them to live differently, in their everyday life?
I don’t have answers. I have ideas, some are technical changes some are adaptive changes. Some will fail, some will succeed. Some will take time to fail, and some will take time to succeed. But with this research released, I’m going to be more willing to take the risk and challenge my self and my own thinking to do something different to help the children and youth in my ministry context to change this trend.
What are your responses to the study released today?
How does it affect you or the ministry you are involved with?
What are your ideas for moving forward?