A New Community Spirit

I believe today’s young adults (especially the Millenials, those of us born in the 80’s and after) have an emerging, powerful new sense of community spirit. I’m proud of that!

Older generations in the past have also held a devotion to community, but they understood it in a different way. Often that was lived out by connecting deeply with a national identity, an organization, a cultural identity, and so on. Faithfulness to the community was about perpetuating the life and purpose of the group.

World CommUNITY Flag

Think about your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ admirable devotion to attend church each Sunday. Community of Christ has transformed tremendously from the RLDS church they committed to as children, but come what may, they’re sticking to it! I can think of a few stalwarts of my congregation who have weathered many changes in our faith community – from a loosening of the “one true church” mentality to welcoming women into priesthood. They don’t necessarily care for the changes, but they still continue to contribute as some of our most dedicated servants. I deeply admire that kind of fidelity to the faith community.

That kind of community spirit isn’t really the strong suit of today’s young adults. In a current survey of Mission Center Presidents and young adult leaders, I asked what they found to be the biggest challenge in their ministry with young adults. The most common response is – you guessed it! – they have trouble getting young adults to commit to groups and activities. We might participate in ministries here or there; maybe RSVP, maybe not. We just don’t latch on to the community in that way. But I still believe today’s young adults will prove to be a generation that is remembered for its inspiring community spirit.

How’s that? Because we must. Young adults today recognize with a unique clarity that the world must change – and fast. The havoc of global warming will come to pass during our lifetimes and that of our children. The consequences of systemic poverty, cultural oppression, and the resulting widening wealth gap are already starting to unfold and will continue to deepen as we move into middle adulthood. Heightening military might continues to spur the cycle of international and cultural violence. We are increasingly aware that WE must be the solution. We can see that political leaders are not the solution.

Rampant hyper-individualism got us here. The drive for personal gain (with as little cost as possible) has driven us to the point. Young adults today are more exposed to the world’s diversity and information than any previous generation. We are confronted more directly with the people (or environmental systems) who pay the price for our individual gain. The internet and global media bring us images of receding rainforests and far away communities poisoned by industrial waste deposited by corporations of wealthy nations. We know our individual choices have a real impact on real people – our generation cannot claim ignorance about that.

What does this have to do with community spirit and loyalty? Because of our sensitivity to the global impact of our personal choices and the urgency of our global problems, young adults have a deepening fidelity to the global community, rather than institutions or organizations. We feel an accountability to care for the wholeness of people and Creation beyond the human-made boundaries of nation, institution, and ethnicity, not simply take care of “me and my own.” Other generations carry this sentiment too, of course. But I believe that young adult generations today will own it and express it even more powerfully than those older than us. There is so much Hope in that!

There is much more to be explored in this topic, but there isn’t space in this post. So here are some questions that we ask from here: If this “new community spirit” in young adults continues to unfold, what will it mean for the role of Christianity? What will happen to congregations? What does it call this prophetic “Community of Christ” to do and become? How does this “new community spirit” reflect Jesus’ teachings, ministry, death, and resurrection? Other biblical foundations? And what must become of hyper-individualism among our generation? These are questions our generation will have to unpack as we take leadership of Community of Christ in the coming years. What a promising and intimidating responsibility! I know we are up to the task. In fact, we are called to it.

4 thoughts on “A New Community Spirit

  1. Bob says:

    Erica, I appreciate how well you articulate your Hope for young adults and the future of the Church. It’s important to acknowledge that hope abounds even during difficult times and with delicate issues.

    There is a dark side to the commitment that older generations have had in our congregations. It seems to me that once the older generations obtained control of their congregations, they never wanted to give it up nor did they choose to nurture those who would. Why don’t young adults want to be involved with church programming? It’s because we have limited community ownership. We don’t want to simply have what we’re being given. We don’t want to commit because we don’t like what we’re committing to, so instead we leave or become disinterested. This is part of the reason I don’t commit to congregational life anymore. I’m sure other young adults have had the feeling of going into a congregation for the first time, and seeing us as a new willing body, representatives from the older generation mark us as an asset to maintain their broken buildings, events, and programs. There is a dark side to this conversation, and without acknowledging it, the Church is saying that whatever drove us away doesn’t matter.

    With the social changes that are occurring within Community of Christ, there’s the potential to attract not just young adults, but new mentors, teachers, spiritual leaders, and new energy. BUT it most coincide with a structural shift that allows for these people to direct the future of the Church. If those who are currently in positions of authority do not allow that structural shift to occur, then the Church will have learned nothing and we’ll be back to where we are right now. My hope is that the new social awareness that you’ve been writing about, Erica, will manifest itself in ways that bring new life into the Church.

  2. David Brock says:

    Good and wise refllections, Erica Blevins Nye! Thank you. On my way home from youth camp in Oklahoma. They did a great job of connection their graduating seniors to the young adult activities in the Mission Center so there is a solid link from youth to young adult years. Great camp! Hope you are well.

  3. I felt my call to ministry during sharing with you my CofChrist’s friends.
    I’m leading a “young” Young Adult Ministry. There was a group of young, but this group hadn’t Community of Christ ressources, they were doing their things. After, they stopped worship. When i was called, the first thing or ministry interested me, was Young Adult Ministry. And I began with a small group, and this group still growing.

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