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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Reconfiguring faith in the face of Gen Y

Don't we all just love generational theories. You know Gen X, the Baby Boomers and all that fun stuff.
I remember going to a large international Christian convention in the USA and being told that we were to be the Daniel generation, standing up to all that was going on around us.
Looking back 10 years later, I wonder just how many of the 3,500 young people at that event are now living lives of Danielic preportions.
When I look at the church I wonder what is it that we are offering?

I came across a blog post a couple of days ago and as good blogging theory suggests, I have been mulling it over for a while before posting on it. Since then, I have come across another couple of blog posts that relate to the whole area of young people, faith and Generational theory and so I am going to try and critique 3 different posts against each other.

The first is entitled How faith reconfigures in Young Adulthood. As the name suggests Fernando looks at faith in young adults.
The second is entitled Generation Y Workers. It raises some issues for bosses who have to work with Gen Yers.
The third is entitled Why your youth no longer care about Evangelism. This post by Mark Sayers, looks at Gen Y and its relation to 'Christian Consumerism' a favourite topic of mine.

Before we jump in, let us just define our terms.
Baby Boomers was the Generation born roughly between 1946 and 1964.
Generation X was born roughly between 1961 and 1981.
Generation Y was born roughly between 1977 and 2003.

Fernando begins with the well known idea amongst those who work with young people in a Christian setting. Most people make faith decisions before they turn 18. However 6 out of 10 young people who are active in the church as teenagers won't be there as twentysomethings.

Fernando makes the point that part of this could be because "Youth ministry tends to be highly relational. As people move out of it they find fewer relational links within the church and more pressure to maintain the links they need within workplaces, family and third places (clubs, social sites, etc)."

He points to this post where the author suggests the reason is actually that the church doesn't intellectually challenge young people and they leave out of shear boredom. He goes on to say that not only does he agree with this, but that Youth ministry is so involved and often experiential that when people move out of it into 'grown ups Church' they miss those aspects.

But then Fernando gets down to the meat of his argument.
He thinks that the key is that in Youth Ministry we are told to be countercutural.
When the young person develops into adult hood, they realise that being 'countercultural' is hard and think that to 'buy into the dominant culture' (ie buy a car, or a house, or get a job) is to sell out from being countercultural.

He then points out that 'countercultural' is the new dominant culture, with advertising buying into the whole idea of 'rebelling.'

The two results he sees are:
  1. we see that the 'countercultural' life we are taught to live in Youth Ministry isn't all that countercultural and so we are suspicious about being 'sold' faith.

  2. we continue to live 'counterculturally' acquiring all the trappings of 'rebellion' (the mac, the cool jeans, the environmental outlook on life) and therefore don't need the church and the faith to be 'countercultural'.

Mark Sayers sees the problem of faith in young adults as an entirely deeper problem.
"Generation Y is highly unlikely to see a life following Jesus as a viable option."

Why? Because they live in the now and don't want to wait for growth from discipleship.
Because they live within a consumeristic worldview and "it’s easy to attract a crowd of Gen Y’s to an event; it’s another thing to have them live transformed lives."
Because they are envious of the lifestyles of the people around them and see pleasure as the only way to happiness.
Because what is the need for God when we have the economy promising the 'good life' and society promising everything I want.

The Catalyst blog highlights 4 points about Gen Y workers, that I think very much relates to how they view and work within the church.
  1. Their heroes are the guys who got rich fast, or appeared to.

  2. They will shift jobs 20 times in their life time. It isn't a negative, it is just about gaining new experience and knowledge.

  3. They expect to dictate how and where they work

  4. They expect an open work place where they can have their views heard

Does that sound like the church today?
Does it sound like what the church should look like?
I think there are some positives there, especially the last one. But there is also that 'me' culture and the consumerism coming out again.

So are you depressed yet?

What an opportunity this provides for us to engage anew with what it is to be the church in the 21st Century.

The questions raised are great questions and they are questions that I have been grappling with, and I know others who have been grappling with, for a number of years.

How do we encourage spiritual depth in a generation that strives for the experience of the moment?
How do we 'sell' discipleship, with its journey, struggles and hardship, to a consumeristic generation that seeks instant gratification?

How do we be the Daniel generation that I was told that we were going to be?

To answer your concluding questions, the best idea I have so far is to make sure we're modeling true Christianity to students. God's work in our lives should be contageous to those around us who see the living Word of God at work in our lives both in areas of strength and weakness. The connection between spirituality between the heart and the head needs to take place. If they don't see this happening in lives of people around them it appears to be an impractical spirituality. Why would students want to be a part of that?

I kinda blogged about this just a couple days ago:

Thanks for your thoughts!
I heard this quote the other day "All the churches in the world that are growing are cell based churches" I dont think thats a coincadence... especially since its so open for people who strive for the moment...

As for the consumers... thats a big topic...lol
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