Young adults are all about mission, right?
In Vision Project visits with young adults all over the church I heard a big theme resounding in nearly every location: “Take Action!” We are looking for a faith community that’s busy doing Christ’s business of peacemaking outside our church walls. Serving the poor and impoverished. Visiting the lonely and neglected. Feeding the hungry. Speaking out for the marginalized and vulnerable. Again and again I’ve heard young adults connected to Community of Christ declare that they are weary of congregational life that revolves around insular worship on Sunday morning. “If the church were more active in the world (instead of condemning it, many say) then we would be more active in church!”
And so, this theme is one of the most important points we share with church leaders. “Churches should take bold action in mission and peace-building efforts. Then young adults would get more involved.” A few months ago, I made this point in a small group discussion with some leaders of the church and its related organizations. It seemed simple enough. But then I heard an abrupt challenge, “Do you have any empirical evidence for that claim!?” I turn toward a man seated to my left.
After a moment or two of confusion I understood what he was getting at. This was a person who works in a university setting (which explains the need for “empirical evidence”) and is in daily contact with young adults. He and his colleagues in the local campus ministry had also heard students’ call for the church to take world-changing action. So they worked with a few young adults to arrange plenty of missional activities for students. Many of these fell under the Community of Christ Mission Initiatives “Abolish Poverty, End Suffering” and “Pursue Peace on Earth”. The problems was…very few students showed up. No matter what they tried or how easy they made it to attend, young adults still didn’t make it a priority to join in the efforts. The man became frustrated and discouraged. And he doubted my claim about young adults’ passion for mission.
And, to be honest, what this man experienced is not uncommon. Young adults are notorious for being unpredictable (or some would say unreliable) about showing up for things – even activities we ask for. We rarely respond to RSVP requests, I assume because we don’t like to commit ourselves. I wasn’t sure what to say to my disillusioned colleague. He was challenging my honesty about young adults’ passion for mission. And he had a fair complaint. The same thing has happened to me. And every local young adult minister I know could probably say they’ve been discouraged by it too.
I don’t plan to change the message I have for Community of Christ. Young adults everywhere say they want to be in congregations that are taking action. But what happens if our congregation and church leaders take that to heart and we don’t follow-up and show up?
So here is my challenge to all of us under 35(ish): Be true to your own call for missional action and respond. When you see that your congregation or young adult leader is planning a food drive, or home visiting, or a neighborhood clean-up, or a fundraiser for World Accord – show up! Be faithful. Be the example of sacrificial servanthood that our generation has been calling for!
Faithful, reliable participation. Poverty and suffering in the world won’t end – until WE begin!
Okay, I’ve been honest and open here. And I understand it’s a touchy, complex issue.
How can you explain the disconnect between our words and our actions?
Let me know what you think….