Takeaways From Pastor Mary's Talk 'Why Millennials Are the Hope of the Church'

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Was anyone else able to listen to Calvin College Chaplain, Pastor Mary Hulst, speak on the topic of millennials and the church yesterday? She kicked off the 2018 January Series and I found her talk to be spot on as far as understanding millennials (traits, interests, challenges) and what they are looking for in the church (spoiler alert: hip pastors in skinny jeans not needed). 

I found it helpful how Pastor Mary explained the unique challenges facing millennials when it comes to always being so connected (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). She described how living such documented and public lives is actually increasing anxiety and loneliness. Millennials crave real community (think personal invitations instead of Facebook invites), mentoring relationships (they want to hear from someone older than them about how their faith has made a difference), and even gentle correction. 

I also appreciated her emphasis on the importance of good preaching. Millennials don't care about "cool" but they do care about how the gospel can directly make a difference in their daily lives. Amen! 

Did you listen to Pastor Mary's talk yesterday? What were some of your top takeaways? 

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I didn't hear the talk but the title of this post caught my attention. Kinda thought the hope of the church was Jesus. But, then again, I might be mistaken.

Participant

I think it would be good if we all tried to think the best of each other and what they write or say, rather than look for things to criticize. I'm not saying I am always perfect at this myself, but Staci is asking sincere questions, wanting to share what she gained from Pastor Mary's talk, and hear and discuss what others have made. I hope we can all join her in that discussion, in the spirit in which her invitation was given.

I'm struggling to know how your comment is any different from what you accuse my comment of being. Are you thinking the best about what I wrote, even if it came wrapped in a bit of satire? In fact, I was not looking to criticize. My intention was not to be flippant. I take this question very seriously. But I also find that a bit of irony might help us recognize the unconscious beliefs we have adopted from our scientific culture and have deployed within the church that are actually contrary to what faith is all about. I am attempting to offer the observation that in much of what I hear around the CRCNA lately, this post only being one concrete example of it, we seem to have forgotten that Jesus Christ is our and/or the church's only hope. Period. Full stop. If our Christian hope rests in our ministry gameplans, goals, gimmicks, tactics, metrics, marketing, or anything else like that, we're not putting our hope in Christ but in some humanistic effort that can so easily become manipulative and abusive. Young adults today do not need the added burden (with its guilt and shame) of guaranteeing the future viability of the church. They're having a hard enough time negotiating our rapidly changing culture while still following Jesus. I believe we actually push youth and young adults away from the church and from the Christian faith by placing these kinds of (theologically inappropriate) expectations on them. So, yes, I am joining the discussion precisely by pointing these things out.

Participant

Good point. I took your comment as something hurtful and it sounds like you only meant to be satirical.

Admin

Thanks to each of you for your comments. Mike is not alone in raising a question about the title of Pastor Mary's talk but after listening to her speak, I understood her intention. Thanks again for engaging. 

Participant

I thought Pastor Mary’s talk was amazing, too! I listened to it twice now – the second time to refresh my memory before writing a response here.

By the way, I am a “boomer.” CRC for life but grew up in the Air Force where my dad was a chaplain. Attending San Jose CRC where I have been a member for almost 40 years now.

I was struck by Pastor Mary’s statements regarding the Millennials’ reluctance to take on the label of “Christian” because of its association with other words such as racist, anti-immigrant, and so on. I remember having similar feelings when so-called Christians were bombing abortion clinics and killing the doctors and staff who worked there. Back then if I said I was Christian I would sometimes qualify it with “not the abortion clinic-bombing kind.”

I think nearly all of us have to work through the reluctance we feel in some social circles to openly say we are Christians. It took me many years to finally go ahead and say things like “…a woman from church said or did x” or any other reference to the fact I actually went to church. Often, I was also reluctant because I knew I wouldn’t measure up to the “perfect Christian” I thought I should be if people were going to know I was Christian. For me, what helped was to get older and become less and less concerned with what other people thought, plus I hoped that ultimately, even though I would blow it over and over – NOT be that perfect Christian – I would at least do things like admit and apologize when I was wrong, and show people that I loved and cared for them. The association with negativity is heightened now, but there’s always been baggage that goes with that label. I’d be curious what your thoughts are on this.

Kind of along similar lines, I have been thinking a lot about her discussion of the culture of tolerance, of “You do you,” and loneliness. I’ve been thinking about how I can do more things like ask people for coffee. I like having people over for dinner; I could do more of that. I’ll keep thinking about that, and, again, I’d love to hear your ideas.

Pastor Mary’s reference to pornography really struck home, too. I’ve been closely involved in a situation where pornography was at the root. It’s something I really hadn’t thought about before then, and now think about often. I wrote down the things Mary said to read. Does the subject of pornography touch you and millennials or others that you know? One thing that strikes me is what a different perception there is about it in a sort of abstract way versus when it has a real, serious effect on life, ourselves, and our loved ones.

It was good to hear her discussion of preaching and mention that music was at the bottom of the list of reasons people go to church. Music was a big deal a few years back in our church, and I’ve been on our worship team for years. I plan to talk to our church leaders about evaluating the preaching in our church, the faith questions Mary brought up, and I downloaded her interview questions.

This is something Pastor Mary did not talk about, but here’s something that is kind of cynical and comes up in my mind a lot when we’re talking about millennials or others coming to church. I’m pretty convinced that many people would not come to church no matter how great the preaching, how welcoming the people, whatever we did – because they just don’t want to get up and go to it. They don’t want to subtract the time from their precious weekend hours, and/or they don’t want to have to set an alarm, and/or other practical reasons having nothing to do with what may or may not be happening in a church service. And don’t get me wrong – it’s true for me, too! Now that we’re empty-nesters we love taking day trips and spending our weekend hours elsewhere! Any thoughts?

Well, this response has gotten very long – and I could go on. Love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Admin

So many good thoughts here, Mavis. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story and what's on your heart. 

I personally have not felt the "stigma" attached to being a Christian until recent years. Probably a result of living in a West Michigan Christian bubble. But recently I have noticed a shift and a need to be vocal and proactive about what being a Christ follower really looks like to me. And it's not perfect. But like you said, it's having a soft heart that is quick to apologize, eager to welcome others, and always learning. 

Thank you for also mentioning pornography and how an issue becomes real when you come up close and personal with it. Though this is not something I have walked through, there are many other issues (such as anxiety and cancer) that have become much more real to me. 

I also appreciate your last comment on not going to church for the simple reason of not wanting to get up and go. I think this can definitely be true but it might be a wake up call to find a new church. For me it was. No church is perfect but I do think it's important to genuinely look forward to going to church (to be fed spiritually, to praise God, to talk to others).  

thanks again for your comment, Mavis.