Digital Natives and Immigrants - request to stop ignoring the others

In many respects, I feel like I am a digital native; that is I grew up with computers and the digital age and feel very at home in the “digital” world. Others might identify themselves as digital immigrants, in which they had to move from one world into the digital world.

And like the stories I read of immigrants moving to the United States, there is a strong desire of the “old world” customs and language and traditions to be upheld, respected and practiced. Those who emigrate from, say Mexico, and do not speak English will often desire their children to practice the traditions and language of Mexico. And it is very admirable, but it is also very difficult to navigate.

Building on this example, it is often the case too that the children surpass their parents in the use of the English language. This quickly turns the tables in the relationship. It is now the parent who is dependent upon the child to communicate to the teacher or to the soccer coach. The child is forced to live in two worlds – one they are born into (America) and one that is expected of them to live into (Mexican).

In many ways the digital native/immigrant is much the same thing. Often children surpass their parents in knowledge of how the internet and technology work. Adults are dependent upon the child to set up Facebook accounts or explain Twitter or even run a DVD/TV.

I surely not the first to point this out by any stretch of the imagination, but it is becoming very real in the UMC that the younger clergy are being asked to live in two worlds. We are asked to live in the “old world” with the customs and expectations that are a part of that and then we are expected to also be fluent in the world were born into which sometimes does not even speak the same language of our parents (search “L337 speak” and you will get the picture).

And so to my “old world” friends, do not decry the lack of respect of the “new world” or hint at how technology, while okay, is really the root of so much evil.

And to my “new world” friends, do not admonish the tradition and wisdom of the “old world” or hint at how older people, while okay, really are an obstacle to “progress”.

We are all learning together.

Contemporary worship and tract homes

Recently I have been asked about the difference in the contemporary worship and what might be called "ancient/future".  I will take a couple of posts to tackle this.

There are a great number of faith communities in our area (and in the U.S.A) that "do" contemporary worship and "do it well".  The flow is unique in each setting but generally it has these elements more or less in this order:
  • Open with 2-4 "praise and worship" songs that are upbeat.  One song must be a "slow down" song.
  • What I call the opening "Salad prayer" - this is the prayer in which the worship leader prays something like, "Father God, just 'let us' give thanks to you. Father God, 'let us' be center our lives upon you and just 'let us'..."
  • Community announcements given in a casual/comical way 
  • Stand and greet your neighbor time
  • Scripture reading
  • Sermon
  • Offering (with a song sung by band at the front)
  • 1-2 closing songs
  • Benediction 
This is not a "bad" order of worship, it can however feel generic.  If you attend a contemporary worship Mississippi then the next week you attend contemporary worship in Washington, then they feel very similar.  This sort of "removal" of uniqueness is much like tract homes.  They are quick to build and they are great homes, but they all look the same.  There is little room for character or local charm.  Efficient yes, but not very original.  

Please hear me I have nothing against tract homes they are great in that they empower many people to have a home of their own.  Likewise, contemporary worship is great for many people to feel empowered to connect with a faith community.  The rub is that the "creative class" and the "Millennials" are people who value uniqueness, local and grassroots more than big box, conglomerate, and generic.  For instance, the Millennial lifestyle is more inclined to fuel the knitting revival than the generation before them (Gen X).  

If we are interested in creating worship opportunities for these growing demographics, then why would we look to create another 'tract worship' in our area?  Should we not instead look to create a local, homemade, authentic, unique worship expression for this context?  What would a worship revival look like if the Millennials fueled it? 

The next post will explore that question more.

14 Things Older Leaders Should Know About Younger Leaders part 2

I did not write this, but I want to share it with not only the older leaders of the Church but also for the younger leaders of the church.  Also for anyone who has ever entered into Church.

I am going to pull a few of the points from the original post and add some comments. 

6. Not willing to wait. Young leaders are ambitious and passionate about making a difference now. Not willing to wait their turn. They want to influence now. Evidence of this is the explosion of church planters in the last 4-5 years. Reality is you are never really “ready” for anything. Some say that you should wait until you are “mature” enough to pursue certain things in life. But we’re never really ready, are we? At 22, I didn’t think I was ready. At 25, I didn’t think I “knew” enough. As my friends from the UK would say…“Rubbish!”

In a post 9-11 world, many young people have a very strong understanding of how quickly life can be taken from us.  Which is why in many ways young church leaders are not willing to wait for a lot of things in life.  This is only re-enforced with the "instant" world we find ourselves in, but more that that it is a healthy understanding that life is fragile and to sit around and wait for things to happen when we could actually do things right now, even if they are not perfect, is something that really gets on young church leaders.  

7. See social justice as the norm. Leaders who care about the poor and lean into causes and see the social gospel as a key ingredient to following Christ are no longer seen as the exception. Young leaders see taking care of the poor and sharing the Gospel as BOTH crucial to the advancement of the Church and of God’s Kingdom. Twenty-somethings, I believe, are and will continue to become more balanced in their pursuit of both. They don’t have to be one or the other.

Micah 6:8 theology is not only deeply rooted in young church leaders, but it also connects to the idea that life is short. As such, we ought to be working, in the words of John Wesley, to "do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."  Mission is the new norm, even in worship.  

14 Things Older Leaders Should Know About Younger Leaders

I did not write this, but I want to share it with not only the older leaders of the Church but also for the younger leaders of the church.  Also for anyone who has ever entered into Church.

I am going to pull a few of the points from the original post and add some comments. 

2. Willing to work together. Twenty- and thirty-somethings are more willing to collaborate than any other generation before. They trust each other. Really. And see collaboration as the starting point, not some grandiose vision of teamwork that is far off in the distance. Collaboration is now the norm. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true- young leaders don’t care who gets the credit. For the next generation- it’s way less about WHO and way more about WHAT.

While this is a bit rosy of a picture, I am going to have to agree with this comment/observation.  Most of the young adult church leaders I encounter are in a constant state of healing from allowing the church to break our hearts.  Most of the time these heartbreaks come from un-wanted egos of others dominating the Church in a way that leads to divisive leadership and a cementing of the Church in a dead custom that is masked as "tradition".  I cannot tell you how many times we share ideas with one another and how few of us get really get credit.  

3. Generosity and sharing are the new currencies of our culture. In business, relationships, networks, platforms, technology, distribution, content delivery, etc., open source is the new standard. This new wave of leaders has tools/resources such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, and tons more social media tools that make influencing much more readily available and easier than ever before. The currency with all of these social mediums is being generous. Sharing your ideas, sharing links, sharing friends, sharing networks. This is a complete paradigm shift from 30-40 years ago.

One of the things that I hope to help change in the Church is a movement away from being nice and move toward generosity.  Friendly means we are nice in as long as we are not troubled too much.  Generosity comes at great cost and expense of the generous one and it is these sacrifices which carry more weight in a world which we "millennials" feel there is an abundance for all.