Category Archives: Young Adult Ponderings

Covenants

Today a friend and I were talking about The State of Young Adults, which makes me feel so old that I actually care and talk about things like that, and retirement plans, and how much milk costs.  Soon I’ll be staying up for my Friday night viewing of Wall Street Week in Review with my high-fiber, non-fat, low-sodium rice cakes, living into the party animal that I am.

At one point my friend referred to us as “bridges” between young adults and adults – able to speak to both, existing in both worlds, trying to help understanding on both sides.  Young adults seem to want to be adults, but different than the adults who exist; existing adults want to think that they’re still “hip” with young adults, and yet they don’t “get” why young adults do what they do (or don’t do what they don’t do).  I wondered when I would move from being a bridge to being firmly planted on the adult side of the fence:  I feel I’m getting closer day by day, sometimes pushed, as I find myself saying things I *swore* I’d never say, like “use your words”, “not so fast”, and “what is that crap on the radio?”

I wondered who will be the bridge between me and my kids when they reach young adults.  Will they be segregated into a removed-from-the-larger-body youth group experience?  Will their peers and youth leaders be as influential in their spiritual formation as mine were?  Will they drift off and find Church Life irrelevant?  Or will they lead me and our family/community to a new place to experience where God is already moving?

I got a bit angry.  Many of my friends who grew up in my faith community were dedicated to Christ in that very building.  Their parents dressed them up, brought them to the congregation, and on a blessed Sunday made a commitment in front of the community to raise this child in the ways of Christ.  The family entered into a covenant with the community and with God – sacred, holy, blessed.  In return the community covenanted to walk alongside the family, to train and equip them to raise this child into the ways of Christ.  And yet my friends and the community no longer walk together.  I wondered:  how long was that covenant called to last?

Yes, we live in a transitional society.  We also live in a very nuclear-family-oriented and busy society.  It’s easy for me to lose track of others because I’m focused on a) my family and 2) the things I want to do.  I think we’re called to do things as a larger congregation, but I so often hear, “We’re already so involved doing so many good things!”  Individually.  When am I called to lay things aside, even if they’re good things, because I’ve made a covenant to the larger community?

I want the covenant that I made before God and before Newberg Friends to last as long as God will allow.  If we happen to move, I hope that interest and love will still remain, even though the day-to-day walk will be transferred to a different faith community.  I don’t want this covenant to be passed off to the middle school pastor, and then the high school pastor, and then … ?  The slow fade into nothing, that is, until my boys get married and have children of their own, maybe still being involved in a faith community and now able to reenter as an Adult Parent, the “role” that seems most functional/understood in the evangelical Christian faith community.

My friend talked about a gal she connected with, a young single mother who is simply trying to get through one day at a time.  When my friend asked what her goals or dreams or gifts were, she had no answer.  She had no one walking alongside her, speaking that into her life; she felt completely disconnected to those in the faith community, the place where she was dedicated.  How has it reached this point?  Do we need to cast blame, or simply state it for what it is and then ask, “What is God calling us to do about it?”

How long do covenants last?  Do these covenants mean anything practical, or are they simply a ritual and a Sunday morning family photo opportunity?  What covenants is God asking us to renew, reclaim?  If they are called to last, I feel anger, remorse, and motivation to *do* something about it:  I don’t want my words to be meaningless, which they are until lived out in action.  I expect the same of my faith community.

Perhaps we need to talk as a community about what that means – define expectations.  Perhaps we need to evaluate where these practicalities are to be lived out – small groups versus larger congregation, etc.  And perhaps we need to repent, to apologize, to take a posture of humility and hospitality.  Or we can just let the slow fade continue, and our words can continue to lose their power; but this Mama Bear won’t live that way with her boys (not like they’re easy to ignore anyway; just *try* and forget about them :)).

Avoiding Hurt VS Healing Faster

On Sunday night Gregg offered up a question: what types of concerns or compassions have been laid on your heart in regards to our community (specifically the city of Newberg)? He didnt want to get into major detail about them – our meeting was more to prime our ears and open our eyes rather than decide upon a plan of action. Thats when my friend shared her walking story. Others shared wonderful things: to help provide affordable housing for folks trying to get out of poverty, to provide financial counseling, to help teens overcome the apathy towards drugs, to provide support for teen moms.

I didnt share my impressions: I feel like Ive somewhat said them before. Again, I felt a compassion for my friends, especially in regards to blessing and healing. We were the good kids: went to Sunday School, attended all youth group and youth yearly meeting functions, acted in drama and band and choir (the safe school activities) and only played sports that didnt involve having to chew or beat the crap out of somebody (basically – tennis, maybe track, mostly tennis). We felt set apart.

But now, not so much. That whole Barna statistic of Christian stats and non-Christian lifestyle stats are pretty darn similar has totally come into play. I respect my friends decisions to create a life for themselves; I hurt to see how many of them appear to be hurting, aimless, lonely – even though we look like everybody else now – the larger group of our peers – we’re more alone.

I wonder what wouldve happen if they had words of blessing spoken into their lives: words from God as He sees them in the future giving them guidance for what they should/need/will become. As they wander without these words, they encounter all sorts of hurts from the world and have no sort of refuge or place of triage. The church *should* be this place, but for whatever reason, they arent finding it in the shape the church is in their lives. Christ spent most of his time doing two things: teaching *and* healing. The teaching thing we seem to have down pat (almost a little *too* pat) . . . but the healing part?

And how am I supposed to minister to my friends much less others when Im still carrying wounds? My ministry wont be pure unless those get taken care of; they will taint everything I do and say – they anchor me from becoming who Gods called me to be. Graham Cooke says our job isnt to avoid getting hurt; its to get healed up faster.

I wish things would be fixed so that God would stop aching so Hed stop making me ache because, like my son, Hes awfully persistent *and* insistent: what a combo.

What means of healing do you see taking place in your worship gatherings? Id really appreciate hearing your examples, hoping one of them sparks an idea of what to do with this impression rather than circular pontification.

To Participate in a Generation: Do You Mario?

My brother and I were chatting last night – enjoying our rockin Saturday nights at our computers. 🙂 He was discussing his quandary about whether to join the next generation of gaming or to call it quits with his PS2. I asked if he could play the upcoming version of Rush – a racing game he thoroughly enjoyed on his N64: he and his friend would play for hours, beat boxing to the music – oh, the good times. He said that it was compatible, but that he would not be purchasing it because they tampered with the format to make it more like Grand Theft Auto. Which led us to a discussion about leaving good things alone and how the Mario franchise learned that after dinking around with Mario 2.

But then, after we discussed it for a while, I had to confess something to him: I dont know the Mario games – well, I do on N64 and up, but I dont know the old school stuff. All of my knowledge comes second hand from my friends reminiscing about the grand times they had playing that game. See, we were an anti-gaming household – books and friends and the big back yard were our distractions. I think Mom thought video games were just going to be a passing fad, not the enormous cultural activity that its become.

When I got to play Mario, it was over at a someone elses house who usually had already beaten all the levels and just wanted to warp to the good stuff. My brother mustve had friends who didnt mind playing everything over again, but Ive never gotten the whole gaming experience. And I couldnt tell them apart, either.

I know many folks dont think its a big deal: who cares if you cant tell an antiquated game apart from another? Youre educated in reading and in quality friendships and knowing how many somersaults it takes to get to the end of the driveway! But Ive always felt a little left out of my generation not having participated in that particular element: kind of like the missionary kid who comes back and doesnt know any of the tv shows or movies (Jason has a coworker who doesnt know what Fraggle Rock is because she grew up in Germany – oh, the travesty!). Its not so much that I wish I knew the game, but that I could participate in the shared experience of others.

Ive been reading the blog of a friend whos has or is in the process of no longer attending organized/institutional church. That seems to be a theme Im seeing: my friends all leaving, not necessarily going to anything, but just leaving. Is this something common to being our age? did people before us leave the church in their twenties and come back later? Or is it something specific to our generation? Is this a passing fad, or a new cultural element thats here to stay? When we reminisce in twenty years, whos going to feel left out of the shared experience – those who left, or those who stayed?

To Sudoku, Or Not To Sudoku?

There’s definitely a right answer to that question in our household. Ah yes, the latest phenomenon to hit the funny pages of the Oregonian: Sudoku, a Japanese number logic puzzle. Each day my husband comes home for lunch: we dole out sections of the paper – he gets Sports, and I get everything else. I quickly skim through stories, blurting out interesting things like , Did you know they might put tolls on 217? That sucks. or Did you know that some hockey gear company and Nike have merged their logos? (Cause my hubby likes hockey and business, and I like to sound like I know what Im talking about, so I skim for things he likes, mention it, and let him pontificate).

But I always save the best for last – the Sudoku puzzle. My pen is ready – it changes daily depending on how many puzzles I have finished with it historically. I like these puzzles because my contribution doesnt rest on remembering random trivia and I can’t hear my mother in my head bemoaning the fact that phonics ruined my ability to spell (heh heh – right there, I seriously just couldnt spell phonics. I laughed: you should, too – except my mother, who will be shaking her head all the more). All the pieces are there – numbers and/or letters depending on how big you can Sudoku (I have yet to tackle the Sunday Monster Sudoku: too scary): you just have to look at the big picture and arrange them properly.

Today I was talking with a friend about young adult ministry. Actually, I was telling him to stop feeling so pressured about his job, to hold things loosely, to recognize that while he might have vision of where we need to go that he cant solely steer us in that direction.

And then I started talking about how I dont follow the advice that I just gave. 🙂 I have those feelings and desires about certain areas of my life, particularly being on boards and committees. I just got a notice from one board about an upcoming meeting: were evaluating our current programs – are they good? Are they doing what they should? Why did they originate in the first place? Are they meeting those needs, or have the needs changed? And so for a week since receiving the letter, Ive been pondering which Mr. Potato Head eyes Im going to wear – happy, mad, or scary.

Part of me is selfish. Theres a chunk of change for some of these programs, and Id like to take it and do young adult ministries with it: travel to churches in the NW, meet with folks who have a concern or compassion for young adult ministries, talk about the personality and distinctives of their particular area, and dream up ways of living out Gods love in their present reality. Part of me is idealistic: I could do it! Ive got free time and connections and the passion! Part of me is realistic: I also have a husband and a one year old. Will people ever change? Are my desires in line with Gods (at least in how they come about?). And who says that the folks on the board would even think its a good thing?

The reason I went to check in with my friend is because Ive been concerned for him: hes seemed . . . driven yet discouraged, idealistic yet realistic, free to explore yet loaded with responsibility. And folks can only have so many opposing dichotomies before they tear. But a wonderfully wise woman gave me an image of this friends work: Hes in labor! Hes birthing something new in the Kingdom, but right now hes stuck in the eighth or ninth month, and we all know thats just plain uncomfortable!

For myself, I feel like Im looking at a Sudoku puzzle of my life: all the pieces are there, but theyre not arranged quite right. Im so focused by a certain box of nine squares that Im not seeing the larger picture, and yet Im distracted by flitting around with this chunk and then that chunk that Im overwhelmed.

Theres so much release and relief once one piece falls into place and the rest do the same: I often smack my head and wonder why I didnt see it before. The trite answer could be its all in Gods timing – which does have relevance, but it also has to do with my sight – my vision – my training and thinking and preparing and submitting myself fully to Gods desires for my life and the life of this Yearly Meeting and Gods greater Kingdom.

So, should we start offering up Sudoku puzzles to work on during open worship? A new listening exercise for our Listening Life Groups? Or maybe I should just stick to my kitchen table listening practice.

Hey Hey Hey: It’s the Spiritual Fat Albert!

Pontificating has been light as of late: the realities of daily life (moving, adding a kitten to the mix, throwing an open house/first birthday party – Lord help us all), so I certainly wouldnt call myself saturated in spirituality at the moment – my Quaker and Emergent readings have been traded for skimming Cooking Light for healthy cupcake recipes.

But there have been times Ive inhaled spiritual readings – and by spiritual, I mean the kind that youd find in the Christian section at Powells. Ive glimpsed aspects of Gods nature in books of all sorts, though I doubt A Wrinkle in Time, Alice in Wonderland, or The Traveler will end up anywhere near the Christian Mystics section. 🙂

When Ive had the luxury of reading to my hearts content, I inhale books. If Im taken with a specific topic, a decent amount of time is spent researching the subject, looking for *all* the authors and *all* the books so as to accrue all the information available.

But, in the words of Robert Smith, its never enough. I grasp and I try to control, but it feels as though it all slips through my fingers: the ache isnt relieved, but instead grows.

Today I read a great post by Alan Creech entitled of imperfections in respect to spiritual gluttony.

Spiritual gluttony, as he calls it, is indeed still rampant in the Church. You’re not really allowed to call anyone on it, though. That would be to quell the zeal of your sibling. Of course you should devour every new spiritual book you can get hold of. Surely we should try every kind of spiritual exercise that will help us advance. The defense is heard, “there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience God in fullness, to feel Him in your bones.” The trouble is, no one ever answers this objection. We always give in so as not to sound as if we’re saying that some desire for God is bad. Well, some ways of desiring God are bad. Some are unhealthy and will end up not leading you to God but to your idea of God and therefore, to yourself as god.

In Quake speak, this friend speaks to my condition (or perhaps my tendency). I also wonder if that could be some of my “disappointment” as a youth with the real life church experience; after coming back from camps and youth gatherings, I wanted and expected to maintain my spiritual high caloric intake, but it just made me fat and cranky.

What are your impressions, thoughts, experiences? Can we hunger for God in unhealthy ways? How do we differentiate between healthy hunger and gluttony?

Does Your Youth Group Need a Rabies Shot?

The fatal sin is building our churches and youth ministries around the appetites, desires and wishes of our congregations.

At my “Why Young Adults Don’t Attend Church” workshop, a person threw out a concept I’d pondered but hadn’t put such eloquent words to. As of late Ive been recognizing that my high school church experience was segregated: my friends and I were quarantined to our safe youth-group experience where we were entertained, occasionally we gave back if we had to, and we created a community of folks who were pretty Wonder bread (bland, palatable, nutritious . . .to a degree). I had some awesome experiences, events and folks who helped shape me into the person that I am today, but it was a pretty self-centered, demanding, consuming experience. The image I got was that of a rabid dog: theyre foaming at the mouth to consume, consume, consume: just to bite down on something – but nothing ever satisfies that mad craving.

The person at my workshop talked about how youth ministry as we know it is dying. Youth leaders are recognizing that theyre creating false communities – communities that last only as long as the kids are in school, and then they dissipate, causing the individuals to flounder as they are community-less. They look to the larger church, but are so used to their self-centered experience that they dont know how to participate. And they mourn for the loss of their community, not knowing how to experience that again.

My mother-in-law sent me this article, talking about all this stuff – again, much more eloquently than I ever could.

For years now we have watched as study after study and survey after survey tell us what we already know- those students who graduate out of our professionally led youth ministries struggle to maintain their church connectedness during their college years. For me it tends to be one of two things: either my graduates end up being cling-ons- graduates who find ways to still hang around the youth ministry – or they simply disappear a few months into their college careers, and I end up hearing about them after theyve moved to another church or out of the church altogether.

What happens is that we feed the beast when we leave our teens with the impression that, like everywhere else in the world, they are consumers who by their consumeristic nature drive the shaping and programming of the church. When we are consumers, then we have the impression that we are or should be in control. We, the consumers; we tell the church how we need it to be. Is it any wonder then, that our little consumers shun the authority of the Church? How much authority can the Church have if the Church does whatever I tell it to do?

Oooh, good stuff. So, what are your thoughts? Do you see this type of rabid-attitude in your youth? Have you succumbed to it as well? How did you become free – to turn and focus on Christ rather than your self?

Yes, 254 Feeds On My Bloglines

Yesterday a friend happened to glance at my laptop which was projecting a Firefox window with my Bloglines account. We had a lengthy discussion, and he kindly held off until the important business was discussed. And then he questioned, Aj, did I see right that you have *254* feeds on your bloglines? Sheepishly, I had to say yes – and then babble off a flood of excuses, Well, some are craigslist searches, and some are mamablogs, and then I have emerging church blogs, and all my friends blogs, plus I like to keep on top of library information and emerging church and Quake world happenings, plus advertisings been a new interest, and I have to know about tech stuff so I can understand what acronyms my husbands talking about . . . But yes, I have too many feeds I keep track of.

Its just so fascinating, though. I dont have to go out to all those website – the information comes to me. And I dont even know how I added most of the feeds: one blog mentions another blog which mentions another blog – a sort of seven degrees of blogging type game. Ive made friends and acquaintances through blogs – some Ive met, and some I havent. Some I read for informations sake; some I read because I just plain like the folks. I get to know their writing style, their typical content – their good days and their bad – some of who they are, and who they want the internet to believe they are.

Would this be considered community? Can community occur or be authentic without meeting personally?

Those investing heavily in the internet would like us to believe so. Today I came across two new sites:

Dodgeball is marketed as mobile social software. The idea is that you create an account and put in a list of friends and/or crushes and their mobile phones. When youre going out, you can send out a text message to your friends to come join you. Or you can be notified if friends of your friends are nearby. Or you can find out if a crush is going to be where youre going – or if someone who has a crush on you is coming. All this through text messaging.

Habbo Hotel is a virtual hang-out pixelized as a 5-star luxury hotel! Here you can meet up with your friends, make new ones design a room, host a party and enjoy all that Habbo has to offer. Its gauged for 13-18 year olds, complete with chat rooms, im clients, and other community/communication features. Gorillaz, a virtual hip-hop band, will be touring by way of Habbo Hotel.

Its apparent that online communities are becoming more and more a part of our present society, particularly for the younger generations. What does this mean for intergenerational relationships/friendships? Im finding such value in my community of mixed generations: its providing such depth, such variety. But many of the older generation dont feel comfortable using chat clients or bulletin boards or chat rooms.

Churches do little to engage folks online. My church now offers podcasts and mp3s of the Sunday gathering: I greatly appreciate it in that Im not missing parts of the Sunday series. But this is simply informational: it doesnt allow others to contribute, to offer, to engage. It continues the American predisposition to consume, to take in the message, the potential programs, the details about worship/church/staff/etc. Does our website allow folks, either from the congregation or not, to give, to engage, to create or participate in community? Is it missional – equipping folks of our church body and outside to go out?

The younger generations have spoken: they ache for community, and their creating it on their own terms. How am I and my church gathering called to answer the cry of their heart? Or will they continue to create their communities without us?

Godless

You know, teens are really with it. I know adults think that the older generations create the trends, that they know all thats out there, and if they dont know whats going on, its because choose not to be on top of social issues since they have more important things to do: whatever. Teens care: they research: they are with it.

When I worked in the young adult section of the library in Boise, I noticed that teen magazines came out with the newest trends before the adult magazines did. Seventeen had advertisements for new makeup, new clothes, new movies before In Style did. They had articles on Iming, texting, and being tech-savvy when Cosmo was rerunning yet another edition of the one thing that will drive him wild.

My teen days have long since faded into the past, but I try to maintain ties with youth in a variety of ways: checking out websites, reading blogs (Ypulse is fantastic!), and yesterday, I checked out some young adult books. Theyre fast, easy, entertaining reads which is really nice: I mean, do I need to read Faulkner every day?

Yesterdays pick was titled Godless. I was drawn to it because a) of its title, 2) because of the shiny gold sticker on the cover declaring it a National Book Award Winner, and iii) my son actually knocked if off the shelf, and I was too lazy to put it back in alphabetical order.

The storys about an agnostic teen whos tired of his over-religious parents and decides to create his own god – the towns water tower. He and his friends create their own religious cult called Chutengodianism full of history, traditions, and rituals centered around the ten-legged one – and of course, they create all sorts of trouble.

Some of the quotes were great:

The purported idea of [Teen Power Outreach – a youth group his father makes him attend] is to give kids a chance to talk openly and honestly about God, religion, and Catholicism. But there is also a secret agenda to turn us all into monks and nuns, at least in terms of our relations with the opposite sex.

Father Haynes, a thousand years old at least, is standing in the pulpit delivering one of his famous sermons on selflessness. His voice rises and falls like the sound of a crop duster passing back and forth over a field, spraying us with words. Ive endured this sermon before. It goes on for nearly half an hour, but the message is simple: Give more money to the church.

I envy my father, too. I envy his unshakable belief in the Catholic Church his faith gives him power and contentment. I envy everyone who has a religion they can believe in . . . Me? I have Chutengodianism a religion with no church, no money, and only one member. I have a religion, but I have no faith. Maybe one day Ill find a deity I can believe in. Until then, my god is made of steel and rust.

Mama pajama – some of that stuff nails it pretty well, eh?

A friend recently told me of his experience with seekers: they want answers to their hard questions, and they want something they can invest in and give back to. What does the church offer? Fluffy answers, and an open hand with which to take money. So where do people turn? To gods they can “create and manage” – consumerism, technology, perfectionism, achievements, water towers. They have a religion (cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion), but they have no faith (the theological virtue defined as secure belief in G/god and a trusting acceptance of G/god’s will).

I dont think we need to have all the answers, but I think we should have a spirit willing to journey with the seekers through their questioning with no strings attached. People are aching for a deity that they can believe in, invest in, be intimately familiar with: I know of such a deity – am I sharing that knowledge and experience and relationship with others? I think its a lot more simple that I often make it out to be.

Momentum

Its been a week since Yearly Meeting concluded – a week and a half since the workshop on The Missing Generation concluded. Ive heard a bit of response: folks asking how it all went, people throwing out a few ideas here and there of where to go from here.

But Im restless: my spirit is unsettled to the point that Im not sleeping well at night (and sleeping is one activity I excel at). I sense an excitement and a need for further discussion – conversation – creating space to listen: and then action – individuals, groups, concerned people going out in their daily lives and then coming together to strengthen and equip each other for further adventures.

I *hear* a lot of people say the same thing; I dont *see* it happening.

A friend commented on his experiences: Young adults who have attended church have an attitude of entitlement; young adults who have not attended church have questions (sometimes tough) that they want answered, and they want a place where they can invest – give back – give their selves.

Has this been your experience?

I ache to be intentional about pursuing relationships with young adults. I desire that our yearly meeting not only recognizes the lack of young adults in our population, but that they listen for Christs direction – and then actually do it!

Would you be interested in gathering? Not just folks from NWYM, but anyone with a concern for being intentional in building relationships with young adults. I know so many folks my age who are aching, restless, hopeless because the world is yelling empty solutions in their face and the church passively stands in the corner and whispers words that dont have a chance of being heard.

Call me: email me: leave a comment: even if you are in a different local, I believe God will honor our desire to be in contact. Your experiences – thoughts – concerns – anger – frustration – joy – support – love.

Do you have the ache?