Apparently, I am odd. For many reasons, to be sure, but for one reason in particular.
I am 30, a millennial (on the upper end, since my 12 year old baby sister is ALSO a millennial), and an ordained pastor in a mainline denomination. My close proximity to generation X might make my cultural context and vocational choice even more unusual.
Also, I have a lot of odd friends--Hello, young adult clergy friends!
Often, as if my age gives me expert status, I am asked questions about an anxiety in the church over a
missing generation in the pews:
"where are the young people?"
"why do they
leave the church?"
"what can we do to get them to come back?"
I give my best Rachel Held Evans answer (she
is right on target, go Rachel!)... but a part of
me feels like a medical student diagnosing a real illness that I have only studied in books.
This does not mean I have never doubted. This does not mean I am especially holy. This does not mean I have deep theological insight. This does not mean that I have not experienced pain. This does not mean that I am ignorant or naive.
Now, I find myself a clergy-person on a denominational ship that is
threatening to be pulled apart in the same young waters that led to its earliest adventures. We are left with every meeting and every book to frantically scoop out water while we continue to sink.
What I really want to say to all the searching or annoyed or apathetic or hurting millennials out there is simple...
Don't give up. Please, come back.
The church is not good at a lot of things, and unfortunately we are still trying to figure out the difference between an "issue" and a person whom God calls us to love and accept. We are not always kind, and we don't love our neighbor, much less our enemy.
Lord, have mercy.
We often try to neatly box up our faith and we have yet to figure out that being a disciple of Jesus does not mean we have to align with one political party over the other.
Christ, have mercy.
We fight over silly stuff like parlor decorations and windows and flowers and preaching styles, and in doing so we ignore the really important conversations at the expense of those we should be serving.
Lord, have mercy.
And yet, like a well-meaning relative that usually says the wrong thing, or an over-grown house that used to be a well-used home, I love the church because I have known the capacity into which she is capable of beautifully being and living. I hope that is true about me, too. That God loves me even as I am so painfully broken.
Millennial friend...find a church near you, and give it a real try... a more than 2 clicks on a website sort of try. You will find a community that will surprise you, make you angry, inspire you, defend you, walk with you, love you, and if you stick around long enough, there will be moments when the Kingdom of God is near enough to see.