A blog post by Megan Clapp
There’s been a lot of “talk” online lately about millennials and the church, why they’re leaving, why they need the church, and a whole bunch of responses along the spectrum.
I’ve read a lot by Rachel Held Evans, the author of all the links above, and I appreciate the way she wrestles with questions of faith and church in an honest and authentic way. I like her ideas about what millennials are hoping to encounter in church, and I like her ideas about why the church is important. And then I saw this response, and it really caught my eye because it calls both sides, leadership and millennials, into active relationship.
Fitzgerald challenges millennials to stay put and get involved by saying,
“Truth be told, this is typically a frustrating experience, churches, like other large institutions, are slow to change. But being invested in a community, particularly one wherein you’re forced into relationships with people you disagree with, feels a lot like what I imagine the Kingdom is supposed to be like.”
As my husband and I started talking about all this we realized something: we are millennials who not only stayed with the church, but we’re also leaders in the church and so are many of our friends and colleagues. So what makes us different?
There are a lot of reasons but I think one of the big ones is that we were given opportunities to lead in congregations, at camps, and in other ministry settings. Perhaps we sought them out because we were following our call to be Christian public leaders, but we also worked with so many other young adults who were called to all kinds of other careers, and they continue to nurture their faith and be involved in the life of congregations and ministries across the country.
So what can we do as leaders to encourage the young adults in our congregations?
It’s more than just having a Theology on Tap gathering or a kickball team, just as building a youth program isn’t just youth group and lock-ins. It can start with those things, but then it must move into meaningful involvement and relationship.
So instead of asking our young adults to be on the fellowship committee and serve coffee one week, what if we asked them to be in charge of the evangelism or stewardship committee or maybe even to be the congregational president or treasurer? Will they have some new ideas? Absolutely. Will they make mistakes? Sure. Will they learn from the leaders before them? Yes.
Is this the magic answer to all the complaints that millennials have about the church and that “the church” has about millennials? No. Some young adults won’t want to stick around. Some older folks will resist the new ideas. It will take a lot of education and learning together about how to best serve all the people in our congregations.
But when we lead together, we grow in relationship. When we grow in relationship, our whole community grows stronger, living into the Kingdom that we are called to reflect.
Megan Koepnick Clapp is a pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Andover, Iowa. She is passionate about helping God's people grow in faith that is connected to every part of life, not just the Sunday morning routine. Megan is married to a pastor, and they are constantly dreaming and scheming together about the future of ministry and the church. Megan is a graduate of Luther Seminary, and along with her M.Div, received a degree in Children, Youth, and Family ministry.