Here is a teaser from Ch 8 – Probably the Thing That Inspired Me To Write This Book of “The Millennial Pastor“:
From a Board Meeting:
“What is the age limit you are setting for your young adult party?” Sometimes I hate that kind of question. One of my strengths is Includer, meaning I like involving everyone. I have a hard time excluding people even when it makes sense to do so.
“I guess we would say everyone who has graduated high school up to 30s ish?” I replied, not really wanting to create a precedence that I myself would have a hard time following.
“Ok, but it would be helpful when we announce to give a specific age range.”
“Yeah, I understand, so what if we just said the young end of the spectrum is post high school and the top end is limited to those who know what a hashtag is and how it’s used.” This was my half-joking attempt to create parameters.
“What’s a hashtag?” was the response. “Perfect!” I said. There was a lot of laughter, and it seemed like this would suffice to weed out who was young adult material and who wasn’t.
I announced the plans over the next few Sundays. The first one, all my young adults decided to not come to church. It was literally me and my wife. I told what would have been a joke to them, “From out of high school to knowing what a hashtag is and how to use it.” It was followed by some awkward laughter and expressions of confusion. I wondered if my plan would fall flat. My apprehension over creating compartmentalized ministries was only increased. The next Sunday they were back, and during announcements, I tried my exceptionally cheap attempt at humor. This time I received a combination of laughs and eye rolls. The young adults got it, but no one else did. It was incredibly exclusive language, and that was the point, wasn’t it? This was the point, to exclude those who didn’t “fit” the age group. I didn’t like that and tried to make it less exclusive by letting some who may be seen as too old still participate… but really, I was just creating a new type of compartment.
Now speaking of compartments, I want to take a step back and explain what they are and why I can’t stand them. Compartmentalized ministry is what I grew up with. It was the “Kids go over there, teens back there” approach which was incredibly fragmenting of the church body, youth ministry especially. Youth ministry may have started sometime in the 60s or 70s with my parents’ generation. It was out of the best intentions. Church realized they needed a more specialized ministry strategy that could meet teens on the level they were at. Youth pastors became more and more popular and the whole thing gained more and more momentum until it became what we have today. The problem as I see it is that it can become a separate entity, a closed off compartment from the rest of the church body.
That was regularly how it felt growing up, and it didn’t change a whole lot once I myself became a youth pastor. There were always special rules for teens. Places they could or couldn’t be. They were oftentimes excluded from things. It was usually the case that the youth room is “over there” or “in the back room” of a church. It is the place that is often farthest from where adults meet. When it’s not, conflict often happens. When I was a youth pastor, we had the misfortune of being next to a large adult Sunday School class on Sunday mornings. On these Sunday mornings, we had worship band that would lead musical worship. Almost every week, without fail, someone from the next class over would come over and complain we were being too loud and were interfering with what they were doing. Some in the class were fine with it, even championing it saying how they loved hearing the teens worship God… others, not so much. I once had a man come in and walk right up to the stage to complain. I was the worship leader and he knew it, so he made a point to be so intrusive that we would have no choice but to take note of his frustration with us. This is when compartmentalized ministry is at its worst.
That’s it… More next week…
Upcoming this week:
More stories from millennials in ministry. More discussion on the generation gap found within the American church and more updates on the book! Stay tuned!
Until next time…