Millennials and Church Part 3
The church speaks the language of programs. The goal of programs is to give space to each age pocket within its walls – to foster community and further their knowledge of Jesus. The true goal of programs should be discipleship, an art that has been lost in our culture.
Discipleship is an apprenticeship.
Millennials need apprenticeship.
Millennials don’t know what apprenticeship is in the context of culture of today, but it is what they unknowingly crave. The adults around them, of course with some exceptions, have forgotten the magical necessity of this intentional relationship with the younger generation.
Young people are expected to make their own magnificent way in life by turning themselves into a brand, performing on their self-created platform, and hustling to get ahead. Success comes from marketing yourself. I myself switched out of pursuing a sociology degree in university because I wasn’t sure how I could market that degree to get a stable job post-graduation. The expectation is that millennials all carve their own sparkling path.
It is stressful.
We are not meant to make it alone. With the advent of adolescence about a hundred years ago, came the termination of apprenticeship. It used to be that kids would start doing basic odd jobs in a shop before they were ten, and then under direct guidance of an experienced adult learn more and more skills so they could, one day, become the artisan themselves.
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were not self-taught. They were apprenticed as artists, learning from the best in Florence, before they could take their own developing style and make their mark on the world.
We are expecting kids to become Michelangelos without any sustained, direct, intentional guidance.
This is definitely an issue in regards to employment and making a way in life, but I speak of it here in the context of church.
Jesus said to go and make disciples.
Go and apprentice the young in their faith.
So how we do programs has to reflect more how Jesus discipled than how we now prepare kids for the world of employment.
Jesus took 12 guys. They ate together. They took road trips together. They talked together. Jesus explicitly taught them. They asked questions. He answered in a way that guided them almost Socratically to the answer. And Jesus gave them many opportunities to practice what they were learning.
It reminds me of good teaching practice in schools. Kids do not learn best by the teacher standing up front and delivering a monologe on every concept they are trying to impart. Teachers need to teach in multiple ways for concept mastery.
They will plan a series of experiments to get kids to discover the 6 properties of air, and then summarize and re-teach after. They will develop a drawing together with the class that represents a concept of democracy, like the charter being entrenched in the constitution. They will read a book simultaneously and speak out loud how to figure out the meaning of a higher-level word in the context of the sentence, giving the class multiple chances to practice the strategy. They will give lots of practice before they are expected to write a test or create anything for marks.
Above all, they make sure the students feel safe in their class, and that they know that their teacher cares explicitly for them. Kids actually can’t learn, no matter how good the teaching practice, without that caring piece in place first.
If this is what we know to be good teaching practice, not just from educational research, but neuroscience, the church needs to take this into account.
Millennials need to feel the connection of being cared for, and they need multiple chances to practice their faith. They need direct guidance from those who are older and wiser than them. This is apprenticing in faith. This is good discipleship.
Maybe the model of church programs that sits kids down and talks at them about faith, rather than practice with them, needs to be re-thought.
What could this look like?
Togetherness. Lots of it. With each other. With adults. Not always structured. Risk. Vulnerability. Knowing the Holy Spirit speaks to all hearts regardless of age. Sometimes purposeful time together, but sometimes no purpose other than being.
My youth leader and his wife would take my (small) youth group to the 9-hour-away mountains every summer. For five days we would sleep in tents, make meals, climb up mountains, and jump in glacial water together. And we would do devotions every night. We would practice silence. We would practice awe. We would practice journaling. We would practice listening to God in scripture. We would practice making and leading a little devotion.
Each year my bible college did an Urban Hike after spending a week learning about social justice. They deposited groups of us in inner cities across Alberta and Saskatchewan. We had a safe church basement to sleep in, $5 each, and the clothes on our back. We then spent a week wandering the literal streets, talking to the homeless and prostitutes, serving meals in soup kitchens, and learning about the holes in our society we like to ignore. We practiced seeing people and not looking away. We practiced listening to their stories. We practiced sensing their need. We practiced discerning the specific hope God wanted to give them that day.
Missions trips and camp come back in church research as definitive experiences of God for kids that drive them to transformative faith. Why? I believe it is because they are given the chance to practice their faith under the direct guidance of adults. I believe it is the responsibility handed to them before they are perfect. Serving people together. Willingly opening their eyes and ears to God. Witnessing that Jesus isn’t irrelevant.
Kids need specific instruction about the essentials of the Christian faith. Just like a student in school cannot think critically about a historical event they know nothing about, kids need to know what Jesus valued before they can practice that in their world.
Millennials need direct instruction from the bible about their faith. This is critical.
But they also need chance upon chance to practice it under the direct guidance of wise adults. Together. And seeing how Christian adults interact with their world.
This is the discipling apprenticeship of the Christian faith.
Faith apprenticeship doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Jesus had a small budget. He didn’t even have a car. But he did make sure the road was wide enough for his 12 guys to walk with him.
Invite kids over for pizza at your house every Friday night. Pick them up at lunch to talk and pray together. Take them grocery shopping with you. Go to their sports events. Text and ask about their week. Watch a movie and discuss how Jesus would or wouldn’t approve. Make sure you talk to your friends’ kids.
Apprentice your own kids. This is not all the responsibility of the church.
It’s an investment. It’s a generosity of your time. It’s kingdom building.
It’s the ministry of being.
What could apprenticing millennials in Jesus look like in your neighborhood?