In an earlier post I started by sharing a question: Are we doing college ministry in a way that reinforces the structures of western Christianity? Whether or not these structures are “bad” was addressed in part one. However, another assumption of my question is that these structures may be changing. This post will focus more on doing college/young adult ministry in this possibly changing context.
For me, this question is essentially about one thing: What God might be doing. If God is changing the church in terms of structure, authority and culture then I’d liketo be a part of what he’s doing. If he’s not, well then it’s business as usual. Maybe.
The Baby-Boomers did a great job of resurfacing the western church in their own image. Gen X has been able to take part in that process as well. Will the Mosaic or millennial generation be given the freedom to do this in a way that is radical as some predict? Again-What is God doing? It seems that the change brought about by Boomers was merely resurfacing. It was a face lift of Western Structures. Worship wasn’t radically different, they just introduced things like worship bands and music other than the Hymnal (which Gen X & millennials have ironically reclaimed in some ways).
I’m still reading through Kinnaman’s new book, You Lost Me. In it he states that this generation of people are “discontinuously different” from the previous generations. In other words, as previous generations developed after one another, they had certain things in common in spite of growing differences. As a social scientist and commentator, Kinnaman is suggesting that this generation is so different that it no longer has commonality with the previous generations.
Thus, if millennials are willing to take on the responsibility of changing the western church, it seems that a simple resurfacing will not suffice. Rather it appears that there may in fact be a complete restructure simply based on the fact that this generation, unlike others before it, is not attempting to maintain continuity with those who’ve gone before.
In all honesty, this does scare me a little bit. But here’s what I think are realistic expectations of our ministry to them if this change is really going to take place.
Discipleship is key. If we truly disciple people, they will respond to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures appropriately. Context always determines form and the glorious truth of God’s church is that it can literally be applied in any context humanity can muster up.
Trust them to lead. If they are discipled they can lead. I don’t think anybody would argue with that. The only way for them to have opportunity to change the church is for us to let them lead. Then any change in the church becomes about what God is doing in and through them.
Live in real relationships with them. If they are changing the game, they’ll end up doing it with or without us. They could bail on our churches all together and start other communities, which may happen anyway, or they can do what they’re going to do in relationship with the existing structures. The only thing that will give us the chance to participate in this process is to stay connected.
On the flip side, maybe we do all these things and there is no radical change for the church. We’ll still be better for having done them.