What do we call to?

When I was a boy my dad would call to me around supper time. He’d either see that I was playing football in the field, go out the back door and holler so the entire neighborhood could here me or call up to my friend’s house and my friends mom would say it’s time for me to go home. In that call he did two things, he called out to me and called me toward dinner.
Likewise the gospel calls out to people and calls them toward something. Asking what we call to is a double entendre and here, talking about the gospel, it fits perfectly; just as it does with my dad calling me home for supper.  Continue reading

Following the steps of a 30 yr old

What’s the significance of Jesus’ age?  What does it mean that our God’s ministry on earth took place not when he was a teen, not when he was a married parent with a job a children and not as wise old sage?

Jesus was 30(ish). That’s the current age of our American millennials, your children, my peers.

What does it mean to be a 30 yr old?
30 is right in the middle of a life stage. At that age someone is generally wrestling with different questions than say a 45 or 55 yr. old or a 15 yr old. The middle aged adult is figuring out how to do the right thing, so they see life through that lens. A 15 yr. old is figuring out who they are, which also colors their vision of everything else.

30 is between the other ages where one progressed from concerns of identity, but they’re not yet at the concern of middle age. At 30, someone is generally trying to figure out how to be who they are in the world. It’s a question of belonging. Who will they have to interact with in the world and how will they do it?
Once they figure out how to be who they are and belong, they’ll then progress into the concern of middle age, figuring out how to do the right thing according to how they belong in the world. Continue reading

UMC: Identity Crisis and the Failure of Mission (especially to our children)

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times… the UMC, and the Mainline, has a 20-30 something problem.  Sunday morning is an increasingly grayer affair.  The young people we had are entering their 50s and their children aren’t replacing them.

Evangelicals don’t have it as bad, they’ve had better retention.  But this shouldn’t gloss over the fact that more Millennials are “nones” than are Evangelical.  Nonetheless, Evangelicals seem to have a certain sway over their children that Mainline churches don’t – Baby Boomers and Gen X included.
This RNS article on the similarities between Orthodox Jews/Evangelicals offers a clue.  Both are restrictive in theology and social norms, defining clear in and out groups.  And both seem to have better member retention.

I’m won’t praise harsh in/out group distinctions; they have negative effects, but they do enable teens and young adults to navigate the world nonetheless.  Definite in/out group markers aids in identity and community formation.  This is why those age groups are cliquish more so than older adults; it’s developmentally appropriate.   This is also why the restrictiveness of Evangelicalism and Orthodox Judaism enables strong, if tribalistic, identities and higher rates of ingroup member retention and devotion.

I speak from experience when I say the UMC has poor identity markers. Continue reading

How do you solve a problem like Millennial?

First, our problem isn’t a Millennial problem.  Every time a new crop of 20-30 somethings comes around, the church struggles to reach them more than the last crop… at least since the Baby Boomers.  That’s a lot of 20-30 somethings.  I’ve written elsewhere about this, but to sum up, the church misses the boat on the main life crisis of 20-30: belonging.  

So how do you address the problem of belonging?  Simple: recapture what it means to see the world through their eyes.  That does not mean seeing their world and problems and understanding them through 40 or 60 something eyes.  It does mean recapturing solely the struggle of belonging, no concern of legacy, just how to be one’s honest to God self in this world.
This is won’t be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd time this has been suggested.  Everything I’ll say has been said and will be said again.  This should be telling.  Clearly, it is important and, clearly, we’re not doing it. Continue reading

What mission could we get from Erikson?

Can the church learn anything about its mission from a dead German born Freudian psychoanalyst?
Yes I say!  Otherwise the whole point of writing this is moot.
I’d encourage you to go here for brief primer on Erikson’s big idea, “The Eight Stages of Man” as it expands on the limited information in this graph:

The big take away from the graph (and my primer): humans are dealing with different stuff at different ages.  Plenty of people with general people sense or common sense or whatever we want to call it understand that this is true.   Continue reading

Beyond Strategy: Human Developmental Theory

There is plenty of input concerning the problems and solutions of the church.  The inputs that scream loudest come from the arenas management, leadership, marketing and statistics.  I’m not aware of too much coming from the social sciences, like sociology, psychology and human development.

When the solutions are presented, if they’re not some general strategy they’re plug & play fixes.  Either way, the wisdom and insights offered are typically rooted in management, leadership or marketing thinking and present practical application at work and succeeding.  Yet, in order to effectively implement the wisdom, one needs to understand their own context and deeper issues and how the  wisdom addressed the problem in it’s own context.  Context is everything, but this context is normally not provided.  After all, the writers are not writing to offer scientific analysis, but inspiration and hope.  A 1 to 1 plug and play strategy will only work by changing the context one is in, be it the town or the congregation.  And general strategy is helpful insofar that it offers a framework that seemed work in it’s context. Continue reading

The mission of the church (or my far too late critique of the UMC mission statement): Part 2

Using the UMC’s mission statement to assess the mission of the church, I continue from Part 1, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ”. The second part of the UMC mission statement is “for the transformation of the world”.

Whenever I have heard this mission statement chastised, it’s never the making disciples part, it’s always the transformation of the world part.  By and large everyone agrees that the church’s job is to make disciples, Scripture’s pretty blunt that we should be doing it and it’s logical, don’t make disciples and the faith dies when everyone else does.  It’s the attaching of an endgame where people start disagreeing and I can see two reasons as to why the statement’s goal of the world’s transformation is mocked. Continue reading