Last week at Meadville’s Learning Convocation, I attended an excellent session by Terasa Cooley, Director of Congregational Life at the UUA. She started by sharing some preliminary analysis of the 2010 FACT Study – a large survey of cross-denominational life in the US. Most startling thing she said? Here’s a paraphrase:
The 2000 data taught that healthy congregations were large, multi-staff, multi-program institutions. For 10 years I have been teaching UU’s to staff for the congregation they want to become. The 2010 data shows that doesn’t work so well anymore. Life isn’t linear, and the pendulum is swinging again.
And here’s the direct quote offered in her wonderful laconic style, “Shoot!”
It seems that ‘family-sized church’ is not a word as fraught with negative meaning for the up and coming folks as it is for many working ministers concerned about unhealthy power dynamics. It appears that such small bodies may be a key to strength in the years ahead.
From the rest of my notes of Terasa’s excellent analysis:
Religious life for the Millenials (roughly aged 15-35) is different. It’s still important for them, but it’s not necessarily tied to institutions…or institutional financial or volunteer support as we have known it. People are finding religious community in small groups (Yay! We have those.), in casual settings and in social settings. They are a lot less frightened of discussing spirituality with friends that previous generations were.
There is a greater tendency for these younger folks to connect in affinity groups. Circles form as needed and last only as long as needed by the group. The idea of commitment to, say, a two year church Board appointment is not so much on the radar.
The notion of service is a critical dimension. Apparently all US school kids are engaged in some kind of service projects during their educational careers. It’s become an expectation of young people to give back in some way…they did it in school, so why not elsewhere?
The Millenial generation is larger than the boomer generation in numbers. They are culturally diverse and assume diversity. They tend to be urban, connected to each other and to other generations, often living at home much longer than their parents expected. They are NOT a generation has rebelled, probably because this parenting generation has placed so much emphasis on relating to kids and spending quality time with them (Mental note to Dad of 8 and 7 year old: Be careful what you wish for!) They have been well nurtured and have experienced diversity in schoolmates. They have an intolerance for intolerance.
Career-wise they are less intent on money and aren’t worried about a single, linear career path. Most don’t expect to own houses or be as well off as their parents were. But,they know multiple ways into the work force and connections are open to them. Privacy tends to be less of a concern to them than the previous generations.
And then she showed a wonderful video clip that demonstrates these values in action. These two Christian teens responded to Presidential Candidate Rick Perry’s claims about God’s partisanship. Check it out at: