Millennials are flocking to a host of new organizations that deepen community in ways that are powerful, surprising and even religious.The How We Gather Report
Convergence began about 12 years ago. So, that is right in the middle of what was commonly referred to as the “Emergent Church Movement” (Click here for a great article on defining “emergent” vs. “missional” church). We never quite fit into that category, but we were certainly influenced and impacted by the deconstructive wave of postmodernism and as Gen-Xers, Jay (Jay Smith) and I certainly came from a place of feeling the need to defend, hide or explain our faith to the larger culture and our friends who did not share a Christian background. We’ve also felt the fear and confusion within churches surrounding the statistics related to “None and Dones”.
Young people are both more globally connected and more locally isolated than ever before.The How We Gather Report
The Landscape Has Changed Dramatically – In A Good Way!
But, from our own experiences with Millennials and Gen Z and from more in-depth studies like the How We Gather reports, we are seeing that the landscape has changed dramatically. Not only is there an openness to faith and even Christianity – there is an overwhelming hunger for all that being a part of the “Body of Christ” is meant to be. The challenge is for us as churches (small “c”) to see if we can remove once meaningful cultural artifacts that have become cultural barriers to make space for genuinely hungry spiritual seekers as well as those spiritually disaffected and dissatisfied.
The How We Gather Reports are the culmination of a series of interviews and research on the way Millennials are changing the way we gather; finding meaningful community and support through organizations like CrossFit and Soul Cycle. The initial report provides case studies of some of these organizations, what they do well and provides insight to areas they need to grow. It also suggests areas faith organizations can pay attention, learn from these new spaces and even contribute to this cultural shift.
Through their research, How We Gather names six consistent areas that are hopeful among these new gathering spaces. It is worth noting that these are areas The Church (big “C’) could, should and has been effective – the hope is that with some prayer and attentiveness we can be again. (There is also exciting possibility specific to faith communities outlined in the next report, “Something More.“)
6 Themes Prevalent In Organizations That Are Hopefull
- Personal Transformation
- Social Transformation
- Purpose Finding
- (A desire for “something more” also pops up)
I’m wondering, how we can begin to see ourselves as part of a broader cultural shift towards deeper community? What is our place in that?
In the report they write; “Traditional faith communities are valuable partners in this work…but it may be more difficult for them to innovate within a system that is struggling. (As opposed to) The organizations we’ve identified are innovators at the margins who can reimagine community for the twenty-first century.”
Here’s the thing I am challenged by. We, at Convergence are pretty much as far on the margin as we can get. We have a lot of freedom. So, what would it look like for us to fully embrace our on the margin identity and really innovate as a religious organization? I’m grateful for the challenge I’ve heard recently from our congregation to “go there.” That has been very helpful to me. I wonder how many other pastors out there could benefit from hearing the congregation say “it’s time to be bold!”
What Do You Think?
Where have you found meaningful connection outside of church? And what can churches learn from that experience?
Welcome to the conversation! This is the first in a series of blog posts designed to facilitate conversation and reflection on how we gather. Over the next 16 weeks, we will post reflections and questions on the How We Gather Reports and the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. The Convergence Study Group for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Vital Worship Grant will be actively engaged in the comments section and invite you to join us!