“Nones” on the Bus

People often ask me, “How can we attract more young adults and families?  The key to answering that question lies in understanding the Millennial generation.  They are children born to the post WWII boomers, between 1989 and 2000, also called the Gen Y generation.

Here are some critical differences:  40% are mixed race.   They can’t relate to the racist attitudes of their elders.  They see everyone as mixed.  At least 20% have an immigrant parent.

Raised by affluent parents, they are the first American generation to do less well economically than their parents.

Sometimes they are also called the “Net” generation.  They don’t recall a time when there was no internet, and are the most technologically savvy to date.

Many are staunchly Humanist or Atheist, and will look you in the eye defiantly and tell you that they don’t need church.  They grew up without church as the center of their communal lives, a have been labeled the “nones.”

But this is what they do want:  a sense of spirituality, and a place to exercise their ethics in action.  They don’t want to sit on a pew- they want to get on the bus and  into the world to make a difference.  If they have children, they want them engaged in justice too.

OMDSI LogoCase in point.  My millennial niece knows that I am a minister, so she always says, “I suppose you’re going to drag me to church.”  I said, “Yes, I may do that, but what I thought you might enjoy more is to go to “church camp” with me.  So I took her to a week long family camp in Ohio called “Summer Institute, ”  similar to the Unirondack camp in New York.  It was life altering.  She felt accepted by her peers, she felt popular, she felt included, and freer than she ever did anywhere else in life.  (Even with the supervision that is part of the camp, she didn’t even notice the rules- and not because there were none.  Any parent could feel confident that they were monitored and safe.)  She even participated in the youth worship service.

Later when her school required a service project, she wanted to volunteer at the local Unitarian Universalist church.  I almost wept.

My recommendation is that churches do some fundraising to send the youth and families to camp.  It will solidify their UU identity, and give then a needed break from the financial and other stresses on their lives.  They may be so grateful that they return to church, renewed, refreshed, and ready to serve.

Rev. Christina Neilson
Congregational Life Consultant, CERG Stewardship Consultant

Share on Facebook

The Olympics and Unitarian Universalism

Olympic RingsThe winter Olympics are in full swing in Sochi. The media report performance times, medal counts, stories of triumph and bitter disappointment. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, which is a good thing for me, because it turns snow and cold into assets rather than something to struggle against. In today’s news I heard of team Figure Skating, an event which proceeds all the individual and pair events that we are so familiar with. One skater dismissed it as something you just have to get through before the “real” work of her individual event, while another spoke of how the team event prepared her in very tangible and practical ways for personal excellence. Which got me to thinking about what Joan Van Becelaere wrote about last week – how sharing is mutual and reciprocal, not a one-way street where I bestow my wisdom upon you.

Every Olympic athlete and team has a coach, a person dedicated to developing excellence – the best that we can be. That coach will fail miserably if they assume what worked for them in another time or place should be repeated today in Sochi. Rather, to succeed, an athlete or a congregation needs to engage their unique talents and gifts with the wisdom and experience of their members, their neighbors (including UU congregations), their staff and that of the wider UU community. Team UU celebrates not only when one of our congregations achieves Gold Medal status, but when each of us shares our distinct way of transforming the world and pays attention to what works for others. We are, after all, our best coaches!

Karen LoBracco, Lifespan Faith Development Consultant
St. Lawrence and Ohio Meadville Districts

Share on Facebook

When Sharing is Not Enough

Sharing is a good thing. My mother taught me that it was my duty as the eldest to share what I had with my two younger sisters. And we often urge our congregations to share with one another. If one or more of our congregations are experiencing some kind of hardship or natural disaster (flood, hurricane, tornado, etc.) we take up special collections to assist folk in their recovery.

Image by ChrisL_AK on Flickr
Image by ChrisL_AK on Flickr

Sometimes we will take our concern an important step further and collaborate with impacted congregations to send a group of volunteers to actively work for recovery side-by-side with the victims of the disaster.  Participants  often speak of these side-by-side mutual efforts as truly life changing.

Sharing is good. When we share, we feel good about being altruistic and generous with our own abundant resources. Ever since the institution of the Cambridge Platform in 1648, we’ve known that sharing is part of what it means to be an association of congregations in congregational polity. (See the section on Governance at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Platform) Sometimes our practice has fallen short of the ideal, but we’ve known what was expected in our relationships with other congregations.

But in a world of rapidly changing culture and quickly evolving social systems, sharing may no longer be enough when it comes to our covenant with our sibling congregations. Sharing does not require us to actually learn from others. It does not necessarily move us to shift our perspectives or world view or adapt to new situations. Simple sharing does not challenge us to open ourselves to change or live into a relationship of true interdependence.

I believe we need a new paradigm of collaboration and mutuality that goes beyond the traditional views of simple sharing from our own individual self-sufficiency. I want to work for a new commitment to build the architecture of our interdependence – creating vibrant networks of collaborative congregational partnerships. In collaboration, we enrich ourselves as well as others as we engage in strengthening and growing Unitarian Universalism beyond the walls of just our own singular congregation. We need a new covenant of mutual ministry among our congregations – to work together, learn together, worship together, adapt and change together – if we want to build the Beloved Community we dream about.

There is a new story emerging in our world where collaborative networks have become the standard means for groups to get things done. There is a wonderful TED talk titled “The New Power of Collaboration” by Howard Rheingold that looks at this coming world of collaborative and collective action. http://www.ted.com/talks/howard_rheingold_on_collaboration.html .

We see this paradigm shift to collaboration that goes beyond sharing at the heart of our current discussions about new regional structures for ministry and congregational support. As Unitarian Universalists, we are being asked to choose between our familiar individualistic paradigm or living into a wide open collaborative future where we are truly better together.

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, OMD Congregational Life Consultant & CERG Lead

Share on Facebook