“O Beauty ever ancient, ever new” – St. Augustine’s famous line here rings with awe over how our God is both unchanged and novel, both constant in His eternal decision of love for us and infinitely fresh in this love’s expressions. And so is His Church, ancient and yet ever new. As this new academic year has just started, I would like to encourage our wonderfully multi-generational community to ponder how we could take advantage of who we are, and how we could more effectively make space for our college students and young professionals, or “Millennials.” Even better, how can we TOGETHER grow in longing for this Beauty ever ancient, ever new, being the Church that proudly celebrates its history and traditions, and yet is ever open to the new ways of God’s Spirit?
A ministry think tank that I collaborate with, The Parish Catalyst, just sent me this fascinating publication, Making Space for Millennials. It was put together by Barna Group and reflects over 30,000 interviews with today’s twenty-somethings conducted in the course of 10 years. With the help of experts across disciplines – theology, sociology, psychology, art – it lays out a blueprint for Christian ministries to effectively preach the ancient Beauty of our God in ever new ways. I’m sure I will be sharing with you more findings as my study of this book progresses, but I can already see how its most significant conclusion given away right in the introduction may inspire our inter-generational vision of ministry at St. Catherine’s.
The authors claim that there are five major reasons Millennials STAY CONNECTED to a Christian community:
- Cultural discernment – engaging with the wider culture, as a faith community, to assess and respond biblically to its effects on human flourishing;
- Life-shaping relationships – consistent, long-term friendship with at least one older Christian adult who invests time and resources into their lives;
- A firsthand experience of Jesus – the confidence, through seasons of doubt and pain, that comes from having personally experienced God’s revelation in Christ;
- Reverse mentoring – being valued for the knowledge, skills and energy they can offer to older members of the community of faith;
- Vocational discipleship – whole-life spiritual formation that includes understanding their work as a God-given calling.
Are our structures, programs, and our very culture serving to achieve these ends? If not, we’re probably not yet making enough space for the next generation of disciples. May the Lord pour into our hearts the true Joy of knowing Him and the wisdom needed to effectively share this joyful knowledge with everyone, especially with those to whom the Church is sending us as the Newman Center community.