Christian Mission in the 21st century
Some reflections and resources from the Rev. Greg Bezilla, Chaplain at Rutgers State University of New Jersey and Campus Ministry Coordinator for Province II. Please share the links and feel free to comment and begin some conversation.
Below are more than seven resources for understanding better the changing context of ministry with emerging and young adults and for discerning what might be effective for Christian mission in the 21st century:
1. Religious affiliation is declining, especially for people under age 30:
National Public Radio is broadcasting a series of reports “Losing Our Religion” about the rising number of the religiously unaffiliated. A third of people under age 30 report no religious affiliation!
Listen to a discussion about the reasons for trend toward no religious affiliation:
Listen to young adults discuss the loss of faith:
The NPR series interviews Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community – an influential work describing the decline of membership in all institituions of American society and the weakening of all institutions in American society:
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
2. Sex, booze & Facebook:
College bars are no longer popular as meeting places; read and reflect on profound changes in the lives of emerging and young adults that can be traced to the influence of mobile technology and social media:
Dating is very different today – it may be disappearing. Read about “hook up” culture of emerging adults:
Perhaps the most insightful reckoning with technology and social media and of the losses for intimacy and community is MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Listen to an interview with the author:
3. The way forward begins by acknowledging that our Christian institutions may be experiencing a “dark night of the soul”:
In “Dark Night of the Church” by L. Roger Owens and Anthony B. Robinson (Christian Century, Dec. 26, 2012) learn from St. John of the Cross and reframe Christian leadership as spiritual direction: enabling us as a church to sit in safety and acknowledge the brokenness of declining institutions and the ineffectiveness of many religious programs in a time of rapid cultural change. Note that reading the article online requires a paid subscription (but if you’re interested, I can share with you copy of the text): http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2012-12/dark-night-church
4. If religious institutions are broken or declining, then who can be saved?
As a doctoral student at Princeton Theological Seminary, David Lohse ministered in several New Jersey congregations; today, as a professor at Luther Theological Seminary, he reflects on institutional inertia, the renewal of the Church, and what we all might learn from the book and film Moneyball about asking better questions for the future of the Church:
5. The most important time of faith formation may be childhood and the most important influence on young people is the influence of adults in their family – that’s a principal finding of the most singificant study of religion in youth and emerging adults, the National Study of Youth and Religion. For a list of related publications: http://www.youthandreligion.org/publications/books.html
See especially Christian Smith’s Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. There is a related DVD that is an engaging discussion starter (and I have a copy I’d be glad to loan to your church) – view the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqGkiToWBs0
6. The place to engage youth, emerging and young adults is mission outside the walls of the church. An excellent resource for engaging the theological imagination for reflection, discussion and experimentation in ministry is Dwight J. Zscheile’s People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity. It’s the 2013 One Book for the Diocese of New Jersey, and there are a limited number of copies available FREE to churches in the diocese by contacting Sarah Paige at Diocesan House: firstname.lastname@example.org
7. What’s in your cup? Do you know about “Darkwood Brew”? This weekly webcast originates from a Midwestern coffee house and features a jazz band, live audience, social media interactions, and Skype interviews with theologians and ministers from a variety of churches and traditions: http://darkwoodbrew.org
What’s working in your churches or ministries.? What’s broken? What insights and understandings would you like to share about ministry with emerging and young adults? What are your questions?
Yours in Christ,