Before being lured into the episcotheque, I was Christian Reformed (and still am, in a sense—but that’s another post for another time), and I still like to keep up on what’s going on in CRCNA-land.
A new-ish development is the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT). I recently discovered its/their official blog, Momentum. I’m pretty sure I was at Calvin with some of the folks in charge of the org/blog, and I’m happy to see some of the neat stuff that’s happening.
(Tangential recognition of the time of year formerly known as Calvin College’s homecoming week—I’ll be wearing my Calvin sweatshirt tomorrow (k)night, and rooting to beat Hope on Saturday! I will not, however, be submerging my body in frigid, dirty pond water.)
Anyway, the CRC is losing young people like everyone else (though perhaps not at so great a rate as some), and the YALT is, as I understand it, part of the reaction to this movement. The Momentum blog has only five posts as I write this, but they’re quite good, and though uniquely denomination-specific, I suspect many of my readers—CRC or not—would appreciate them.
I’d like to point to one in particular, Mark Hilbelink’s “State of the Union—Young Adults in the CRC,” an attempt to lay out some trends regarding, well, young adults in the CRC. Many of these points would apply to any denomination, I suspect. Here are my brief summaries (with some parenthetical commentary):
- This is not just a CRC problem (nope, sure isn’t)
- Too many people assuming church-leaving is a normal part of growing up; “leave them alone; they’ll come home”
- Culture is changing faster than ever; the Church is not, leaving an increasingly wide gap
- Rise of missional, service-driven (vs. attractional, program-driven) churches
- Death of denominational loyalty (while I think this is a good point, I also think there’s a lot going for denominations, and I’m not ready to give them up—I suppose the CRC bloggers aren’t, either)
- Age targeting has ruptured inter-generational cohesion (see mega and multi-site churches)
- Major hemorrhage points in the CRC are between high school and college, and between college and work/grad school
- Reasons for leaving churches vary for cultural reasons (the CRC has a number of Korean, Latino, and Native American members)
- Many were affected by two big church wars in the 90s—women in office and the “worship wars” (TEC’s been ordaining women longer, but I wonder if we’re still seeing some of the same issues, esp. this year with the ordinariate going through)
- Millennials give (financially and otherwise) differently than their predecessors, and this is going to change how churches are run (this is sort of a scary thought to me)
- Relational leadership development > top-heavy, knowledge-based discipleship (must these be mutually exclusive, I wonder?)
- Authentic, consistent character > appealing style (just say no to happy-clappy)
- “Young adults are unequivocally drawn to churches whose impact is felt in the immediately surrounding neighborhood and city” (this seems really important)
- Young adults seem to prefer churches that are about something, rather than those churches that try to please everyone, being purposefully vague, and so sort of becoming about nothing (While I don’t think TEC is about nothing, I think it’s easy for a thoughtful, progressive church to become leery of offending—we respect multiple perspectives!—and as TEC is built around common worship rather than common theology (vs. the CRC which is rooted in Calvinism), figuring out what exactly we’re for can, I think, be a difficult task)
There’s much more I could say about Mark’s post—and all the other posts on Momentum—but I’ll let you all go see for yourselves. One final comment I want to make is that this blog makes it clear to me that multiple denominations are having similar issues (duh), and that there’s much to be gained from ecumenism (again, duh). This isn’t news. But it’s a good reminder. And also a place where social media can play a key role.
What do you think of these points? Are they applicable across denominations? Have you done interesting ecumenical work?