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A New Kind of Economy

I’ve been struggling with how to express the importance in revisualizing the economy and those who are struggling to make a living and find a home within the confines of the stilted economy we find ourselves in. But any conversation about the economy inevitably falls on deaf ears of those who entered the working world in a different economy. Those who entered the working world before the 2008 Recession are convinced that if you work hard enough, you will find a job that can sustain you and support your family. Those who entered the working world before the 2008 Recession are convinced that education can provide you opportunity and advancement in the professional realm.

Those of us who entered the working world after the 2008 Recession know these things aren’t true.

We know that there is a constant and consistent threat to having your job being cut, reduced in the number of hours and that benefits are not a guarantee of any job anymore. We know that working full-time doesn’t cut it and know that working 40 + hours at a regular job is just the beginning of your work. We know that you also have to develop and maintain a side hustle, something that isn’t in addition to your job, but absolutely necessary to make ends meet.

And we know, if you entered the working world before the 2008 Recession, that you don’t get it. You don’t understand the amount of financial pressure and burden we’ve born for the entirety of our working lives.

There’s no way we can imagine a new economy until we are able to see where our economy truly is. There’s no way we can combat poverty, homelessness, and debt until we understand the reality of how little wealth the majority of Americans have access to. There’s no way we can stop blaming those who are struggling for not working hard enough and not trying hard enough until our eyes are opened to where we are.

And where we are is in desperate need of a new economy. A change. A different way of working and living in relation to one another.

A New Hope

Yesterday, New Hope Christian Fellowship called me to be their pastor and I said a wholehearted YES!

A New Hope…started a journey and ongoing battle between the dark side and the Jedi. A journey that has continued onto this generation in the form of new characters, missing story pieces, and a bond of love for Star Wars between parents and children. Perhaps new hope does just this, unites us, challenges us, and invites us to participate in a greater story.

Anew hope…If there has ever been a time that our world and our church needs anew hope, doesn’t it seem like now? As a millennial, I have certainly found myself in periods of church hopping and church knocking and church blocking. All of these stages and phases indications of my desire to find a place to serve where my experiences match the need surrounding a community, but I know so many other people who are looking for communities of faith to belong to. People to gather to worship with. People to gather around the table and eat with. People to call when life is so overwhelming that you know you can’t do it on your own.

People looking for a new hope. Thanks be to God for the community of faith called New Hope Christian Fellowship who are dedicated to learning, growing, and ministering to the community together. What a joy it is to be called Pastor by you!

 

But, Is There Childcare?

Ben’s no longer an infant. He’s not quite a toddler. We’re in this strange phase of development some have termed pre-toddler for the ages of 12-18. He just moved up classes at his drop-in nursery where there are ramps to run up and slides to slide down. There are toy doors to open and close and close and open and open and close, perhaps one of his favorite past times right now.

As a mother, I’ve hit the stage where I don’t have a baby. I don’t have an infant. There’s a stark difference in the conversations I have in passing. It’s no longer, “Is he sleeping? Are y’all sleeping?” Instead it’s “Is he walking? Is he talking?” The questions indicating that no more and more each day he is developing characteristics that will last him into adulthood. But the strange phenomenon is that the more adult-like his characteristics become, the less people think about his needs.

“As I am invited to participate in communities desiring to shape and mold the future of the church, my question still remain. “Is there childcare?” A shocking question that reveals assumptions that childcare is something for parents to “take care of” not something to plan for in order to ensure that the voices of young parents and young professionals are wanted. We inherently understand that the future of the church lies in the hands and feet of these young professionals and their children. We just don’t understand their needs enough to care to meet those needs instead we criticize these young families saying, “They just don’t come,” or “You can’t count on them.” 

Perhaps this missing demographic is missing because your community of faith isn’t considering how to set the table, provide the infrastructure for the lives they lead. The day in and day out routine of changing diapers, filling sippy cups, and finding high chairs. The strain and pull asking all they have. Perhaps what these families need is someone to think ahead for them, someone to want them at the table so strongly that they have already planned to take care of their children.

Are we planning for a church that has been or a church that will be?

We Have Vastly Underestimated The Needs That Surround Us

As we awaken to the reality that our country has elected Donald Trump as it’s next president, I hope what we have also awakened to is the reality of the needs that surrounds us. 47 million people live in poverty according to the 2014 creating a poverty rate of 15%, that’s 2.3% more than at the height of the 2007 recession. In 2015, there were 17.7 per 10,000 people who live in homelessness. In one year, 10 million men and women are victims of domestic violence.

The need for the hope of something great for many, many people is real.

These statics haven’t changed overnight because we elected a new president. These are needs that are ever-present and have become more prevalent since 2007. In this period of recession and recovery, our faith communities have lauded and celebrated legacies of white male privilege in leadership positions patting ourselves on the back for accepting applications for women to serve in leadership positions, but never actually calling them (at least we had a female presidential nominee, that’s progress!). The teachings in our communities of faith, retreats, and trainings have focused on self-care and spiritual formation rather than community-care and spiritual transformation. We have created a reality we wanted to believe: that we our communities of faith are welcoming and affirming of all people and are relevant in the changing dynamics of our society.

But our eyes have been opened this morning.

We must now wrestle with the truth that we are participants in the privileged culture that favors some and not all. We must wrestle, no matter who we voted for, with the times that we felt we should have said something to challenge and question the systemic discrimination we have encountered. We must now wrestle with the truth that as ministers, followers of Christ, and communities of faith we have failed to offer hope in real and tangible ways that connect to the deep needs that surround us.

May this morning bring heartbreak for the part we have played and resolve to play our part in bringing out real, systemic change that meets the needs of our fellow Americans.

Spiritual Abuse and Name Calling in the Purity Culture

I didn’t know I grew up in the Purity Culture. I didn’t realize that my age corresponded to a growing movement called True Love Waits that reached national attention right as I entered a conservative, evangelical youth group. I didn’t realize that for years and years the church governed mostly by men had been determining and deciding what was best for women’s bodies. I didn’t understand that the message of the Purity Culture often led to women who were guilty and ashamed and prime targets for rape.

All I knew is I didn’t want to be called any names.

I didn’t want to be called “whore,” “slut,” or “easy:” all names that heaped shame on the head of girls in my youth group who were considered to be “on the wrong path” and “unequally yoked” to bad influences. More than anything I didn’t want to be one of the girls who fell into this category. I’m not sure I knew what any of those names meant, but I knew what they implied: a girl who was living for herself and not living for God.

This is spiritual abuse.

This fear of being labeled of being shamed has been difficult to overcome. It’s why hearing a presidential nominee use name calling and guilt and shame as motivators to action sounds a little too familiar. But the labeling in the Purity Culture and in evangelical circles is so important to eliciting the type of behavior desired from congregants that is hard for many spiritual leaders to rid themselves of this practice, even spiritual leaders who wish to engage in healthy and whole practices of ministry.

The implementation of the Purity Culture is inundated with spiritual abuse practices like name calling that distract and defer from the message and intent of the gospel. These practices and the Purity Culture have left many, many millennials who were raised in the midst of the rise of the Purity Culture lost, shamed, and broken after years and years of faithful attendance to church.

The future of the church is in the midst of this brokenness. This brokenness caused by the institution of church. This brokenness caused by good intentions and failed implementation. This brokenness that has left scars and bruises in the next generation of church goers.

To minister now is to minister in the midst of this hurt and brokenness. It will take minister who are vulnerable. Ministers who openly and honestly address their privilege. Ministers who have advisory teams to determine whether they are engaging in spiritual abuse. Ministers who meet people where they are.

And ministers who are mobile because these who have been hurt and broken are going to have trouble returning to the place where they were abused, shamed, and broken.

You Don’t Look Like a Minister

As I was getting a cup of coffee before heading to teach a youth Sunday School class to follow up the work we had experienced together at ministrieslab on Sunday morning, the woman who took my order asked me, “Are you headed to the hospital?”

“No, actually heading to teach a youth Sunday School class. I’m a minister.”

“A minister?” she responded the surprise filling her face. “You don’t look like a minister. You’re too young.”

“Well, my baby did sleep a little better last night,” I responded jokingly. I thanked her as she handed me the cup to get my coffee. As I was filling it up, I noticed that she had made her way to where I was behind the counter.

“Pray for me,” she said.

“I’d be happy to. Do you have something going on?” I asked.

“No, just pray for me,” she said as she looked down at the dish towel in her hands.

“I will,” I said trying to give her a minute to elaborate if she wanted to.  “Thank you for the coffee,” I said as I headed out the door.

As I took a sip of my coffee, I realized that even though I didn’t look like a minister or look old enough to be a minister, when it came right down to it, it didn’t matter to her. She needed someone to pray for her and whether that person was old or young, male or female, straight or gay, conservative or liberal, didn’t matter. What mattered was someone who noticed her as a person and took the time to linger and listen just for a minute.

In my seminary days, I would have carried her comment that I didn’t look like a minister around. I would have commented that there was no way people were going to see women, especially young women as ministers when there are programs that reiterate a stereotypical ministerial look of white, male over 45 who appears distinguished and dependable. I would have commented that these programs only reinforce the stereotype and make it harder for us young ministers and especially female ministers to get a foot in the door for a calling and profession we’ve sacrificed greatly to answer.

But more and more I am realizing there are so many minister who look the part, but aren’t there for God’s people, especially for those who find themselves on the outskirts of society. The people who have been told who they are is not what a Christian looks like and not what a volunteer in the church looks like that I know my ministry will continue in coffeeshops, in homeless shelter, and in youth Sunday School classes who have given up a summer day to see and to serve those in their community who are different than they are.

Thanks be to God that we don’t have to look a certain way in order to be a disciple, but instead we just need to answer the invitation Jesus extended: “Follow me.”

 

As You Go Ministry

If you haven’t heard or experience a pop up consignment shop, restaurant, or community meal, then you are missing a big part of the current economy. Maybe the idea came from the flash mob phenomenon that made you feel like you were part of a musical. Maybe it came from the millennial movement patterns. Maybe it has to do with the changing economy that has pushed for people to be more creative.

I honestly don’t know the why of it, but I do know that musicians, business owners, and restaurant owners are not letting doing things the way they have always been done get in the way of their ideas and dreams. They are creating a place and space for them to follow their passions as they go. This allows flexibility, mobility, and creativity to flourish.

As I have read about and experienced these pop events, I couldn’t help but draw the connection to Jesus’ ministry. Isn’t this what Jesus did?

He popped into town after town, found his way to the synagogue and often found his way to teaching a crowd of people. And when he was on the way from one town to the next, he healed and taught and fed the people he met along the way. There’s a movement to Jesus’ ministry that is often missing from our communities of faith. We make the trip to our place of worship, but as we go to those communities of faith, we often ignore or pass by the need that surrounds us. We get so focused on getting somewhere or getting from one place to the next that we miss the people that pop into our path.

Whether you believe in providence or not, there is no doubt that we are traveling through life with people. People we know. People we don’t. People who are like us. People who are different us.

But all people who need someone to pop into their lives and see them and hear them and love them. Maybe that’s what the pop up culture can teach the church: no matter where you pop up, there is a need for community and a need for healing.

 

A Fractured Reality

As more and more people begin to arrive in Greensboro for CBF’s General Assembly, there is no question that the press release this morning with a call from Suzii Paynter to work towards unity was meant to set the stage for the conversation about CBF’s discriminatory hiring policy. It sounds a lot like we are following in the footsteps of Methodists, except for one thing. While the Methodists are willing to admit that their process of discovery is in regards to the LGTBQ question, Paynter says:

We are introducing a process not for a single problem or for a single moment.

Her statement reveals the fractured reality CBF has been living in.

Because CBF does not kick churches out of their fellowship, there exists a wide array of churches along the theological spectrum. In fact some of CBF churches are still dually aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention, which had protestors at the funerals of the victims of the Orlando shooting. These dually aligned churches are hoping CBF will do exactly what Paynter’s words indicate: avoid the LGTBQ question entirely. The reality is by avoiding the question, CBF is hoping to maintain the financial backing of churches, ministers, and lay people from a wide range of theological understandings.

But CBF can’t exist in this fractured reality for much longer. Churches and ministers who support the LGTBQ community and who don’t or don’t want to address the question, will keep pushing for a clear answer on what CBF believes. As more and more ministers and churches push, the fracture will become bigger.

And maybe this isn’t a bad place for CBF to be because it mirrors the conflicted climate of the church. The possibility of losing funding or losing members over the difficult conversations of gender and sexuality is a reality that so many churches and ministers are trying to navigate. Maybe by feeling the pressure and stress that so many churches and ministers are bearing, CBF will look to a future that values not money above all, but rather the resurrection power of Christ to transform the world.

Hold On

For those of us who are preparing and traveling to CBF General Assembly, there is a question that is on all of our minds, “What is the future for CBF?” This is the 25th Anniversary of CBF and while it is a time to catch up with people and celebrate, it is also a time that we are all expecting a clear vision for what’s next.

CBF is no longer an awkward teenager testing boundaries and trying to find its identity. Instead, CBF is, well, a millennial. The millennials in attendance are not nones (they are attending CBF after all). These are millennials who have not given up on the church, but instead have answered calls to ministry. These are millennials who are pushing on leadership hoping to find a place to serve, a place to grow, and a place to be themselves.

Will CBF have a place for millennial ministers in their midst?

Maybe, but there is a hiring policy standing between many millennials and CBF. A hiring policy that taints the good work CBF does in caring for those in the midst of crisis because it asks members of the LGTBQ community to silence part of who they are. It is a hiring policy that excludes rather than excludes. It is a hiring policy that stands in contradiction to a theology of welcoming and affirming all people.

As we wait for General Assembly to begin, we wait hoping beyond hope, we won’t hear what we have heard for the past 25 years. We hope we won’t hear, “Hold on,” because we have held on for 25 years. It’s time to stop holding on, grasping an identity based on what we are not, and climb to the future that includes all people.

You Cannot Work Here

Next week is Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly, the annual gathering for those affiliated with moderate and progressive Baptist churches, the group that famously split with the SBC 25 years ago. 25 years ago CBF formed as the Baptist that supported women in ministry and upheld historic Baptist principles. Next week in the midst of the 25 year celebration, there will also be questions and conversation about the future of CBF.

Young Baptist are asking where there place is in an organization that is on the cusp of having its founders retire, but whose founders can’t quite retire because of lost income and retirement in the split. CBF is in a holding pattern waiting to land while the next generation of CBF looks up at the leadership circling overhead awaiting a chance to pilot CBF into their future. Part of that future has to include a conversation about whether CBF will remove its discriminatory hiring policy excluding members of the LGTBQ community from working at CBF. This conversation is even more important for supporters and allies of the LGTBQ community in light of the Orlando shooting.

In October of 2000, the Coordinating Council of the CBF adopted the following policy on homosexual behavior related to personnel and funding:

Because of this organizational value, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice. Neither does this CBF organizational value allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.

CBF’s stance barring openly gay people from working at CBF has caused some to boycott the CBF and others to question whether CBF will survive without changing this hiring policy. Those of us who have been told that they cannot work somewhere based on our gender or sexual orientation and not our qualifications, work experience, or education are anxiously waiting to see what CBF will decide.

Our hope is that we will not leave our annual meeting as our Methodist brothers and sisters did with the admonition to keep putting our lives and our very selves on hold.