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Monday, January 12, 2009

tribal church comes to town

It is wonderful when a virtual acquaintence becomes a real one... I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Howard Merritt of Tribal Church blog last Saturday at a training event for the Presbytery of Charlotte. Carol was the keynote speaker and someone's whose blog I read regularly. I thought I'd share some of my notes on her keynote address, as I found us in sync about several things. One of those is what I call being "searchlight church" - focused outside of ourselves, our buildings, and our programs. The other is the incredible and unusual capacity of the church to be an intergenerational family (or tribe!), though we find our culture exerting pressure in the other direction. Here are my notes... comment or e-mail if you have thoughts or questions.

And Carol, if you read this, it was a delight - I'm sorry I didn't get to stick around for conversation. I went looking for your morning seminar and found that there wasn't one... and I had already told my family I'd be back in time for lunch (ah, the priorities of a generation!).

Keynote Address by Carol Howard Merritt
Presbytery of Charlotte "Find Your Path" Event, January 10, 2009

Church is one of the last places where we can speak to each other intergenerationally.
- The young can learn from the old: e.g., what is death? saving for retirement?
- The old can learn from the young: e.g., forgetting the struggles of young adults
[ra: the church has the unique human resources needed for the generation gap!]

Misconceptions about "Young Adults" (20s/30s) - the sociological landscape
1. Employment: YA seen as too narcissistic; the reality is that short-term solutions are often all that is available (e.g.: temp work in the 90s); so-called "slackers" actually work very long hours and are very productive; STAT: 30% of 20-somethings have no insurance
2. Finances: YA seen as frittering away $; the reality is that student loan debt is at an all-time, staggering high; housing prices have soared; half of 20-somethings live with their parents
3. Commitment: YA seen as commitment phobic ("failure to launch"); the reality is first marriages come later than ever (at 27-28); the divorce rate is lower among YA; YA are waiting longer to have children

People are Looking to Connect
- the average YA is a single woman (yet churches often target young families)
- Needs/Solutions (examples from Carol's church in DC)

- worship is central
- small group opportunities important
- focused mission on neighborhood (homeless and college students, in her case)
- there is a connection with God AND a connection with the world ==> this is often messy* (arson, assault, other crime)
- connecting to one another (coffeehouses, etc...)
- YA seem to seek community/relationships over theology or "spiritual truth"

*On messiness... (a snippet - see my whole sermon HERE related to our own pursuit of being a searchlight church)

I’ve said it before – it might get messy. We may find God calling for our fatted calf to be used – maybe a teenage band using the “holy sound system” or God’s house being filled up with all kinds of people who have come home to God.

It might get easy to long for the “good old days” when every face was a long-familiar face and every song a long-familiar song. That cherishing of our beginnings and our heritage is valuable and precious, but it cannot cost us fellowship with the Father and those the Father would bring home.

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