Recently several people have asked me, “Why don’t most twenty somethings go to church?” Usually they think they already know the answer, and whatever response I give is quickly followed by an explanation they like better. There are probably thousands of articles written on the topic, and I can only speak for myself.
I used to dread the questions from relatives at holidays, “So, what are you going to do when you graduate high school or finish college?” Also, “Who are you dating?” Groan.
That being said, as I grew older, I found myself guilty of the same infractions. Gasp! What did I do mere moments after graduating college? I found myself asking the same surface-level questions to my younger cousins, “What are you studying in school? Do you know what you want to do when you’re done?” Why? Not because I was trying to inflict harm, but because I didn’t always know what to say, and it seemed like a socially acceptable introduction.
I began to catch myself though, when I recognized that familiar look of dread that I remember in their eyes. I reflected on what I felt like receiving those questions. I wanted to be more sensitive in my interactions with folks who are younger than me.
It’s an important challenge for anyone around younger people, to connect in an authentic way about the challenges we face.
When I look at the group of Corps Members, I see a team of young adults who are committed to wrestling with the tough questions and doing good work. They are passionate about service and energetic about their ideas and innovations. These are the building blocks of connection in church.
The idea of coming to church for connection and authenticity is a different model than many folks have experienced. Church folks can get stuck in the same rote exchange of information that relatives do, failing to engage one another’s passions, stories, and ideas.
In my experience, church has been great when it involves serving with others, worshiping, talking about deep questions, sharing joys and frustrations, breaking bread, feeling like you’re part of something, and finding love and support in community. There are challenges in every congregation, but the balance of a viable faith community can help you feel more sane, more whole.
I hope as we nestle into these communities of Sycamore House Service Corps and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we will find strength and openness from those around us to create space for the complexities of one another, and really listen.
If you find yourself asking the proverbial “Relatives Questions” like I did, please be open to wander in conversation a while, and don’t be afraid to go “off-course” from your perspective. Consider questions like, What is interesting to you right now? What are you working on that you can’t stop thinking about? What made you laugh recently? What music are you listening to? Risk authenticity and connection, and respond truthfully for yourself. Have creative conversations that foster growth and understanding, which in turn build a more vibrant community.