Archives For Congregational Development

Divese group of multicultural people isolated on white.Your congregation has up to six, maybe even seven, different generations in it.  While the oldest generation is unlikely to still be attending worship, they are still part of your congregation.  And the newest generation is on its way in.  Each generation is influenced by different historical events, technology, and expectations.

Do you know how to recognize who’s who, and what each age group needs? Click To Tweet It helps to know what’s in a name.*

GI Generation: Born from around 1900 through 1923, they came of age during the Great Depression. Also known as the Greatest Generation, this group includes the veterans who fought in World War II. Along with the Pioneers and Baby Boomers, nine out of ten GI’s describe the Bible as sacred. Duty and tradition are motivators for this generation.

Pioneer Generation: Born 1924 through 1944, this generation is generally recognized as the children of the Great Depression. It had a profound impact on their formative years. The American Dream was alive and well with many in this generation. With dedication and hard work, many found success in work and life. Feeling undervalued demotivates this generation; being part of an organization that does good motivates them.

Baby Boomer Generation: Born from approximately 1945 to 1963 following World War II, in a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates. In general, baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values. A relatively large number of young people became teenagers and young adults in the 1960s. They both fought in and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam. They gave rise to the Hippie movement and the Jesus People or Jesus Freaks movement, living in communes and advocating a return to simpler times. The genre “Christian music” grew out of this generation. They broke away from traditional church more so than any of their forebears. Respect and recognition for their efforts motivates this generation.

Gen X or Postmodern Generation: Born from approximately 1964-1980, they are shaped by the first Earth Day, the 1973 Oil Crisis, the end of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the Challenger explosion and 9/11. Often the children of divorced parents, they are more open to religious, racial, ethnic, class, sexual orientation and gender identity diversity than any previous generation. Rather than challenge leaders, they tend to ignore them. They are educated, active, happy, balanced and family oriented. Not at all the “slacker” stereotype once attributed to this generation.

Many were babysat by the T.V., and as a result they rebelled against authority and tradition to a greater degree than had been previously seen. Since authority structures were not there for them as children, they question why they should play into this system now as adults. They prefer doing things their own way. While a significant number still participated in church activities, this generation increased the trend of falling away from religion.

Millennial Generation: Born somewhere from 1981-1999, they have been described as upbeat, team- playing, civic-minded, multi-tasking, and tech savvy. They are regularly in touch with their parents and many live at home due to high unemployment. Sometimes called the “Trophy Generation” or “Trophy Kids,” a term that reflects the trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where mere participation is frequently enough for a reward. They expect more from the workplace than generations before them: coaching, feedback, access to authority. This is good news for churches which thrive on making the above available.

In the US, the Millennials are more likely to be skeptical of religious institutions than their forebears, but still have a strong spiritual/religious sense. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center on religion and Millennials showed that 64% of Americans in this generation believe in God.

Digital Generation: Born around 2000. Also called the Internet Generation, they came into being at about the same time as the World Wide Web. Typically children of Postmoderns, they have but a faint recollection of 9/11. These world-aware children will be shaped by the Economic Crash of 2008, the 7 Billionth Baby, and drastically different weather patterns than previous generations.

  • They embrace technology and value human connections.
  • They are fluid in their ability to adapt to change. Even so they appreciate stability.
  • They see the spiritual all around them. God moments are not limited to Sunday mornings or church buildings.
  • They want to change the world. And often insist on social justice.
  • They are not fighting over environmental stewardship, whether or not global warming is real, full acceptance of women, gays, lesbians, and transgender people in the church, or whether or not to have friends of different ethnicities and races. Generally, they accept these as given. Even so, they are susceptible to prejudice, racism, sexism, heterosexism, greed, and selfishness—just like the rest of us.

You may have noticed that the above information doesn’t necessarily fit your family, culture, or life experience. Or that of the families you serve. Even as generational experiences vary by country and culture, 1989 marks a milestone year. As the Berlin Wall came down, and a youth revolt took hold, more of the world looked to American culture for economic, cultural, and technological cues.   In the generations before 1989, differences abounded in world cultures. Post-1989, however, a global shift occurred; and American culture became a strong focus.   From 1989 onward, generational experiences may be more confluent with American experiences, regardless of culture.

Chances are, your church is a generational mix, complete with untapped blessings, wisdom and knowledge. What can you learn from the generations around you? Click To Tweet

If you are interested in learning more about how to lead a vibrant multi-generational congregation, Creating a Culture of Renewal is for you. Gain the emotional intelligence to interact with all kinds of people. Look deeply at the life of Jesus, his world-changing vision, and how he implemented it. You will learn a step by step process for crafting and implementing a Kingdom-oriented vision that expands assumptions about what is possible in your setting.

* Much of the generational research used in this article has been drawn from Wikipedia.

My colleague, Martha Taylor, recently reported a conversation with a parishioner in which said parishioner gushed, “Oh, I just love my church to death!”  Martha noted that she had a tight grip on the reins and leadership of the church and thought, “Yes, sadly, you probably do.”Wooden Background With Olive Heart And White Cross For An Obitua

In a time when different factions are fighting over the future of the church, it’s important to consider how not to love the church to death.

These days biblical interpretation, the unique claims of Christianity, worship on Sunday mornings and even church itself are up for grabs.

What’s a church leader to do? How do you achieve peace in your congregation?   Is it even possible?

One of the biggest spiritual challenges for people of every age and generation is learning how to let go. Click To Tweet Letting go of power, control, possessions, preferences and life itself is tough stuff.  Yet, this is the call of faith and of spiritual maturity.  It is also the pathway to harmonious relationships.

How might this work?  For now, I’m going to skip over the obvious disagreement before United Methodists—norms of human sexuality and of biblical interpretation—in favor of something less charged: worship style.  When traditionally-minded worshipers are able to let go of the exclusive use of organ music played at a stately pace, in order to accommodate the addition of a band’s lively music or meditative Taizé chant, this move not only includes more worshiping preferences, it also enriches the spiritual life of the whole community.

The key word is exclusive.  It’s not that the organ can’t be incorporated into multi-generational worship.  It’s just that insisting on it can suffocate other options.  And ultimately the life of the church.

If we are to make way for new generations, new expressions of faith, and new leaders, we have to practice surrender. Click To Tweet

The current rate of change is more rapid than any previous generation has ever experienced. That means Postmoderns, Millennials, and Digitals are far more fluid and adaptable than Baby Boomers, Pioneers or GIs.  Futurist Ray Kurzweil noted, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”

So while the church is deciding if it’s okay to sing songs out of the new hymnal, use projection screens, or incorporate new musical instruments, the Confirmation Class of 2019 is learning how to navigate more change in a few months than we have previously encountered in our lifetimes! They don’t understand the church’s collective reluctance to embrace change. For them, change is a matter of course.

Before you love your church to death, ask yourself these questions:  What do I need to let go of to be faithful to younger generations?  To older generations?  A house divided against itself cannot stand.

There’s a lot of talking past each other right now. Listening, true listening, seems harder than ever.  Add to that the polarizing results of General Conference 2019 and it’s a wonder United Methodists can hear each other at all.

At a recent district event, six of us sat around a table to process our feelings after General Conference 2019. Like a microcosm of both Men And Women Sitting In A Circle During Group Therapy, Supportichurch and the world we live in, our table had a sprinkling of theologies, life experience, and deeply held convictions. How would this go, I wondered?  My expectations weren’t very high.

Equipped with a timer, a list of questions, ground rules, and 25 minutes, a retired DS, three lay folks, a pastor and I sat at the round table, looked at each other warily, and began the vulnerable experience of listening, truly listening, to each other.

I needn’t have worried. The questions helped us tap into our own inner resilience, faith, and trust in God. Click To Tweet

The first set of questions, “How has General Conference 2019 and responses around it both within and beyond the church impacted you?” followed by “How do you feel about it?” went pretty well. Haltingly at first, we began to reveal our convictions and reactions. Then as we came around to the end of the circle, the retired DS began to speak. His reflection turned into a complaint about what “they believe.” Sheila, a lay person, with opposite views as it turned out, firmly reined him in by reminding him of one of our ground rules to use “I” statements, not “you” statements. He stopped, trailing off, somewhat surprised.   But he was gracious.

The second set of questions, “How do you deal with challenging circumstances in your life? What practices of faith do you rely on?” caught me off guard. We shifted rather abruptly, it seemed, from the topic at hand to our own coping resources. Only in retrospect could I see the genius of the move. We had neatly moved from problems we had no control over to remembering our inner resilience.

The first person to share confessed that when faced with challenging circumstances, she first gets grumpy, and then tries to get others to do as she wishes before she eventually remembers to pray.   Several us laughed in recognition and the table relaxed.   We shared about the power of nature to calm us, the enduring wisdom of the scriptures, and the grace of friends.

The third and final set of questions moved us deeper into resilience as we began to envision a new future. “What is your hope for the future, healing and well-being for yourself and the church? How can you contribute to that happening?” One by one we shared our hopes and dreams and considered ways we could be part of the various solutions we envisioned.

At the end of 25 minutes, a mini-miracle had unfolded. We had interrupted the reflexive process of speaking past each other.  Instead, we had listened quietly and respectfully, shared vulnerably, and reconnected with our own resilience. The future shifted around our table.

Do you need resources to reconnect with your own resilience and to envision a new future? Creating a Culture of Renewal equips you with the capacity to do both.

Bible characters are usually portrayed as white and European, all except one of the wise men.  But the spiritual history of Africa is imprintedJesus, Mary and Joseph - African in every book and chapter of the Bible beginning with Genesis.  When God creates Adam out of the dust of the ground it contains the soil of Mesopotamia and the sun-warmed earth of Africa.

But it isn’t just earth and soil that indicates African presence in the Bible. It is the people themselves.

The lands of the Bible span the continents of Africa and Asia—both home to peoples of color.

People of African descent, Asian descent, and of mixed descent–Afro-Asiatics—all lived in ancient Israel.  In general, the people of Ancient Israel were probably more African than Asian and they looked it.

Consider the story of Joseph. Sold into slavery and taken down to Egypt he rises in the ranks of Pharaoh’s government.  While his brothers intend it for evil, God intends it for good; Joseph is able to bring his father and 11 brothers down to Egypt to escape a devastating famine.

This means all 12 tribes of Israel and their descendants live in Africa for over 200 years until Moses leads them to freedom.  They go down as 70 souls and they come back one and half million strong.  Through intermarriage, African blood flows freely through their veins.

Even so, the people are called Hebrews, not Egyptians.  Why?  Not because of race or racism; that construct doesn’t come into existence until the 1600s.

It is because of tribe. Tribal affiliation is what matters in the ancient world.  Nevertheless:  In the Bible, Hebrews and Africans are one and the same people.  The first Hebrews are African and many Africans are Hebrews.

Long before slave ships bring Africans to American shores, many enslaved Africans already worship the God of the Bible.   In fact, I went to seminary with a student from Kenya who told me that the African tribal practices of his people were straight out of the Old Testament.  They’re living now like the Jews did millennia ago.

The African presence in the Bible can be traced even deeper in the Bible.  Moses, “The Prince of Egypt,” is born of Hebrew slaves, but is raised by Egyptians.   Remember how Moses’ mother and sister put him in a basket in the Nile so that Pharaoh won’t find him and kill him?  But Pharaoh’s daughter finds him, keeps him, and raises him in the royal palace right under Pharaoh’s nose.  Now if Pharaoh’s daughter and Moses look all that different, it stands to reason that Pharaoh would take the baby and kill him.   But he doesn’t.  Why?  Probably because Moses fits right in:  an Egyptian among Egyptians.

Moses isn’t the only one who fit right in.  Here’s where it gets really interesting.  Remember how Mary and Joseph take Jesus and flee when King Herod wants to kill him?  Where do they go to hide out? Where do they go to find sanctuary?  Where do they go to blend in?  Egypt.

Now if Joseph, Mary and Jesus look all that different from the native Egyptians, they would never pass.  But they do.   They too had African blood flowing through their veins.   Even Jesus.  Especially Jesus.

As Dr. King so famously said, “…all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Black history is biblical history.  Black history is all our history.

Finishing Strong

Rebekah Simon-Peter —  December 28, 2018 — Leave a comment

Just as the apostle Paul finished the race strong, I want to encourage you to do likewise. As the year winds to a close, I recommend that Balkan U18 Athletics Championshipsyou hit the pause button and reflect on your growth as an apostle in the last year.

Why bother? Reflecting on and completing the year past clears an open space from which to freely jump into the new year.

At the beginning of this year, I laid out 5 Quantum Leaps of Faith for the New Year. These leaps of faith move you from discipleship to apostleship. Now that we have traveled 12 months together, let’s take stock and celebrate the gains you made. Like a long-jumper, measure even the smallest advances, knowing that incremental growth leads to exponential gains.

I recommend that you document your growth. Creating a visible record of your progress solidifies the gains you made and clarifies gaps you can close in the coming year. Click To Tweet Get creative. Compose a list using expressive fonts or colors, design a collage, pull together digital images, build a PowerPoint or find some other form of creative expression.

Ready? Let’s take a look at the ways that you took leaps of faith in your leadership.   You may also want to acknowledge the ways your people leapt as well.

Leap #1: Be fruitful and multiply like Jesus. There’s more to following Jesus than emulating the spiritual principles he taught.  You are also called to emulate him by multiplying yourself. This comes by passing on your Kingdom vision and values to the people you lead. Consider how you did the following:

  • I/we passed delegated in these ways…
  • I/we involved these new people…
  • I/we shared authority, creative control and/or permission in these ways…

Leap #2: Be empowered like Jesus Christian leaders are not to be hearers of good news only, but doers as well.  Jesus authorized his followers again and again to do the very things he did. What empowered actions did you take?

  • I /we said yes to Jesus this year in the following ways…
  • I/we accepted the freedom and authority he gives …
  • I/we followed the promptings of the Spirit in these situations…

Leap #3: Be accountable like Jesus Jesus was accountable to the one he called Father for fulfilling his call.  He was rewarded mightily. You too are called to live fully into the gifts you have received so that you might bear much fruit!  How did you fulfill your giftedness? In what ways were you accountable for your God-given potential?

  • I/we used what I have been taught…
  • I/we employed my spiritual gifts …
  • I/we maximized the gift of time by saying yes and no to the right things…

Leap #4: Believe like Jesus Jesus’ followers performed miracles just as Jesus did. How?  They not only had faith in Jesus, they developed the faith of Jesus. How did you courageously make the move from simply believing in Jesus to cultivating the faith of Jesus?

  • I/we acted on the belief that there is no separation between us and God, between us and the Holy Spirit, or between us and Jesus…
  • I/we acted on the belief in our ability to co-create miracles with God…
  • I/we acted on the belief that our lives have purpose…

Leap #5: Love like Jesus Jesus practiced the holy trinity of love: love of God, love of neighbor and love of self. The key to loving like Jesus begins with not wasting time or energy indulging in self-hate, self-denigration or self-abasement. How did you grow in self-love this year?

  • I/we noticed negative self-talk when it began…
  • I/we didn’t let it go unchallenged…
  • I/we surrendered negativity to God…

Now that you have documented your growth in apostleship this year, don’t keep this good news to yourself. Do share it with your personnel committee or your supervisor. If you inventoried your congregation’s growth, craft it into a litany of thanksgiving. Or report on it at Church Council. Above all, celebrate with God! Don’t think of this as bragging. Rather, think of it as signs of sanctifying grace—for you and your people.