3. There are Millennials who like to go to church.
Sweet 7lb, 9oz baby Jesus.
There actually are young adults in our churches. We are not Bigfoot.
But, honestly, it does, on occasion, become exhausting to go to a church (even one where you are, say, the supply priest for the week) only to hear how “You really should be out having fun, not being in boring old church! You’re way too young for this!”
Or “Wow. I only expect to see folks like you here after they get married and have kids! How old are you anyway?”
I like church. I’ve always liked church, ever since I was a baby. Seriously. There are colorful things to look at, there are pretty songs to sing. There is incense sometimes. Sometimes, there’s stuff to light on fire.
Church is how I learned to read, and it’s how I learned to read music. It’s how I learned that people other than my parents liked me. It’s where I got lollipops every week when I was a kid. It’s where I learned to speak in public, and read aloud, and not gag on wine.
This is not counting the mystery, transcendence, and magic, and beauty, and transformation, and awe and wonder.
So, please, do me a favor. Next time you see someone you don’t expect at church, someone who surprises you….just tell them that you’re happy that they’re there. And assume that they’re there to enjoy the same experience of God as you.
4. Millennials do stay. We should find out why.
This was wisely pointed out by Meghan Florian who points out that most young adults are in the church now because someone invited them in: asked them to join the Altar Guild, or teach a class, or help with something, or run for vestry. (She doesn’t say it, but this would be where programs like Young Adult Service Corps and Episcopal Service Internship become vital.)
But also, it should be stated, it starts before that.
I stayed in the church because when I was eight, I decided, in my childhood wisdom, a.) that my church needed a Christmas pageant and b) the reason we didn’t have one was that no one had written one yet. (My logic had some holes.)
Therefore, I took it upon myself that summer to write one, on my parents’ typewriter.
For whatever reason, I decided it needed to be a modern interpretation. Mary and Joseph were teenagers, who wore very ugly clothing, which prompted their removal from several chain hotels, before finally giving birth in the parking garage of a Doubletree Inn. Then, “they wrapped him in oily rags, and laid him in a hubcap.” (It goes on from there.) (There may be rapping involved. It was the early 90s.)
Not knowing what to do with me, my mother told me to show our rector my story. To his eternal credit, Fr. Ted did not immediately expel me to the outer darkness where dwell those who mock the Glorious Birth of Our Dear Savior. Instead, he laughed really hard, and said, “Oh great! Now we have a Christmas pageant!” He threw the weight of the church behind it, and we performed it that year. (And Fr. Ted went on to be bishop in Kentucky.)
As a result, in later years, when I was told that I was too young to have written a newsletter article, or I was too young to consider ordination, I didn’t hear it as the church telling me No. I heard it as evidence that the church was momentarily broken, so I should hold out for a bit, or else, fix it. Because the church wasn’t really like that. And sure enough, I eventually found a church community that thought me plenty qualified to write and seek ordination and do pretty much whatever else.
Moral is: when you welcome people (ALL PEOPLE. Even, and especially kids.) and treat them like they’re important and valued members of your community, then they will generally come to love and value your community in return.
And isn’t that what Jesus would do?