The passage, taken from verses 10-13 of the book’s third chapter, refers to the temple not being what it once was, leading some to shout praises to the Lord while others wept aloud. As Fohr sees it, the analogy is one that can be made for today’s Presbyterian Church (USA).
“What we are seeing is a Biblical example of a multigenerational perspective of how the church is seen,” said Fohr, the Young Adults Catalyst officer for the PMA. “We are a multicultural church, and we should strive to be that.”
Citing the six directional goals of the PMA during an April 10 presentation to the board and staff, Fohr concentrated his topic on Young Adults, or millennials, those people ages 18-30. The goal of the Young Adult component of the directional model framework is to “Inspire, equip and connect the church to engage and join with young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.”
Fohr pointed out that service, issues and advocacy, and community are the primary areas that young adults find themselves suited for in the life of the church, and he spoke of a Young Adult Action Implementation Team (YAAIT) that has been formed to address such issues at denominational and congregational levels.
“We’re better together making a collective impact in how we stay connected with the ministries of the church,” Fohr said.
The objectives of the team include:
1-A season of listening: The use of tri-publications (Presbyterians Today, Horizons, Unbound) with a focus on young adults or millennials.
2-Communications strategies: A clearinghouse of young adult ministries created through web sites, Internet newsletters and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) used to get the message out to others.
3-Seasons of service: Growing the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program in size and service, elimination financial barriers for service, working with hospitality houses, delving into world missions and studies abroad.
4-Quadrupling: Determining a baseline number of young adults and further connecting and equipping ministry areas.
5-Resourcing: Placing an emphasis on joint discernment resources and consulting congregations, mid-councils and conferences for direction.
Referencing a multigenerational perspective from a 2011 article entitled “Mix It Up,” written by Adrienne Fox in HR Magazine, Fohr discussed the various groups of people living today and the characteristics by which they are known.
He alluded to Traditionalists (those born from 1925-45), Baby Boomers (born from 1946-64), Generation X (born from 1965-80), Generation Y or Millennials (born from 1981-95) and Generation Z or the Digital Native (born in 1996 and after). He spotlighted the millennials, noting they were part of the era of advancing technology with Internet savvy at an early age, they had a need be peers to their children as much as parents, and they were exposed to more diversity.
Fohr also mentioned this as the generation of institution rebuilders, those who see a need for increasing responsibility and a desire for feedback from their efforts. At the same time, they are categorized as a Biblically illiterate generation perceived as needy with a sense of entitlement.
That being said, Fohr pointed out that this is the generation that can make a difference in the church.
“It’s a matter of finding ways of engaging millennials with faith and communities of faith,” Fohr said. “Whatever the issue is in society, they see a wrong and want to change it daily through secular nonprofits rather than through the church. There needs to be an attitude of behave, belong and believe.”
By that, Fohr referred to a desire for social transformation (behave), seeking a community through which they can transform society (belong) and an opportunity to reflect theologically through “faith in action” (believe).
“This is a generation primed for living out the Gospel,” Fohr said of millennials. “We have an opportunity of going out, engaging with them and connecting them back to our faith and beliefs.”
Fohr said that through programs like YAV, many millennials are engaging with the world, and the PCUSA is joining with them in such endeavors. A lot of that is being done through missions work as well as the utilization of social media sit-ins.
One PMAB member noted that the church can be on the edge of integrating generations for Christ’s work.
Fohr’s response: “We can foster an understanding of how we all engage. The church is set up to do multigenerational ministry.”
In order for that to happen, a welcoming environment for young adults has to be established, and Fohr offered up those tips to further bridge any generational gaps that exist within congregations. Following are those tips:
1-Opportunities for service – Provide chances for young adults to put their faith in action and engage in work and ministry that make a difference in the world.
2-Effectively communicate the relevance of ministry – Time is valuable. Stress the meaning and relevance of activities.
3-Understanding the importance of work/life balance – Allow for flexible scheduling that creates an environment that nurtures sustainable, valuable and humane work.
4-Effectively using social media – Institutions not using such avenues effectively will become less relevant to young adults.
5-Asking “Why?” Determine why the church wants to engage with young adults rather than how to get them to be part of it. Building relationships with young adults is an effective starting point.
6-Creating genuine community – Develop a community that explores the realities of life and faith issues faced by young adults.
7-Understanding life stages – Meet young adults where they are in their life journeys instead of expecting them to engage in the ways of traditional church. Their life experiences are different than those of previous generations.
8-Creating different kinds of leadership opportunities – Young adults may not be able to or want to commit to session service or being part of a standing committee, but they may take interest in a specific project. Find ways to allow that kind of leadership for them.
9-Allowing space for questions – Allow them to ask questions about beliefs as they seek a safe space.
10-Understanding pluralistic context – Recognizing and celebrating diversity helps young adults learn from faith traditions and understand the Christian tradition more deeply.