Teach the apostolic faith full on…no compromises on basic doctrine or dogma. This generation of college students can smell an intellectual/spiritual weasel a hundred miles away. They would rather hear the bald-faced Truth and struggle with it than listen to a priest/minister try to sugar-coat a difficult teaching in the vain search for popularity or “hipness.”
Preach the gospel full on…ditto. Tell it like it is and let the students grow in holiness. Yes, they will fail. Who doesn’t? But let them fail knowing what Christ and his Church expects of them. Lowering the moral bar comes across as expecting too little from them. What does that say about the Church’s view of our future ecclesial leaders? They can’t cut it, so we have to shorten the race.
Give them charitable work to do…present this work as a kind of “churchy social work” and they will not stay away in droves. I regularly cite Matthew 25 as my scriptural backing for asking them to do volunteer work in the community. Frankly, They have been beaten with the Social Justice-Work stick all their lives and most of what they hear sounds like the socio-economic engineering agenda of a modernist, socialist political party. This is attractive to some, but my experience is that students yearn for a chance to do something Truly Good for their community. If their leaders loudly and proudly attach volunteer work to the Gospels as a an exercise in charity rather than an experiment in social engineering, they will come.
1. ElaineF. wrote:
Great post…pastors and young people’s ministries take note.
September 28, 9:48 am | [comment link]
2. Billy wrote:
So true. Reminded me of how silly that Clown Mass was at Trinity NYC. Our clergy need to be reminded over and over again that church is not entertainment. It is to worship the Lord , though sometimes that may be entertaining). A great post! Thanks.
September 28, 10:51 am | [comment link]
3. Jennifer wrote:
He’s spot on!
September 28, 11:21 am | [comment link]
4. KevinBabb wrote:
“We have to own up to the fact that recent attempts to undermine the moral teachings of the Church are really about the Baby-boomer generation’s obsession with sex and its very public need to have their sexual lives approved and celebrated, especially by those most likely to disapprove. “
Looks like Father’s got this one figured out.
September 28, 11:49 am | [comment link]
5. Billy wrote:
#4, as a cradle Episcopalian Boomer let me respond. When we were growing up in the late 50s, we were shown a movie at PECUSA church camp called “Rebel without a Cause.” I don’t remember much of it, except James Dean basically played a guy who had whatever he needed, but he still rebelled against the establishment. Our parents (“The Greatest Generation”) were coming out of WWII and the Great Depression and were just interested in building homes, working for economic gain, and raising good children to be good citizens. The early 60s were the highest membership for PECUSA ever, and particularly percentage-wise of the US population. It was a time of prosperity and hope, and we were all really still innocent that our church and government were doing things in our best interest. We had no reason to rebel. Then the Civil Rights movement turned violent at Watts, Little Rock, Oxford, MS, and in Birmingham, President Kennedy got shot, MLK and RFK got shot, and the press’ apparently (we know now) intentional misreporting of the TET Offensive in Viet nam as a failure began a huge period of doubt in the Baby Boomers about the wisdom of the Greatest Generation . Where before we had no reason to rebel, now our generation did: segregation was wrong (this was not our doing but the doing of our parents and grandparents’ generations); the war in Viet nam (thanks to the disingenious press) was not being fought incorrectly and for the wrong reasons (the domino theory of SE Asia countries falling to communism of John Foster Dulles turned out not to be true) and we were losing it (and US did not lose wars); our leaders were being assassinated and our country felt unsafe. Our parents were not doing anything about these things ... the Greatest Generation was running the Viet nam War and sending us young people over there to fight in it (and I was one of them), but it was obvious to everyone that it was not being fought to win but fought for political reasons, with an eye on Red China. Our parents were stubbornly supporting this war. Most of our parents were supporting integration of society, but they were not standing up and criticizing the more extreme civil rights leaders who were advocating violence against the white establishment or innocent white people. So the boomers, in college in the late 60s and early 70s finally found something to rebel against. As a part of that rebellion they let their hair grow and wore funky clothes and took to crazy music, because The Greatest Generation put such stock in neatness and cleanliness. Boomers also took to crazy musicians, who were in New Orleans and in Greenwich Village in NYC (called beatniks) who had always dabbled in marijuana and a few other drugs of ill repute. So our boomers began dabbling in that culture also, and with the drug culture came the open sex culture - free love. Unfortunately, that culture of drugs, loud crazy music, crazy clothes, free love was also taken on by some of The Greatest Generation as ok, just kids being kids, they’ll outgrow it. And besides, this marijuana stuff isn’t that bad, huh, and sex outside marriage isn’t really that bad, as long as we keep it between us swinging couples. 1968 was a pivotal year, and I remember it well. All of a sudden, all that we had known was right was no longer right. It was no longer right to support your country, right or wrong. It was no longer right to be clean and dress neatly. It was no longer right to keep your body healthy or not smoke or do drugs. It was no longer right to believe anything the Greatest Generation had to say - trust no one over 30. And the hippie seige at the Democratic Convention in Chicago (with the press covering it like it was a legitimate thing to do) and the lack of support for stopping the violence by the Chicago police department proved how much our world had gone 180 degrees from the world of our parents. And it was no longer right to go to church or save oneself for marriage. Free love and live for today was the only thing there was. Since this hippie movement was supported economically by drug sales, trust funds of rich kids, and parents who were neglecting their kids, it ultimately failed of its own weight in the mid-70s, when the Vietnam War ended. Since MLK had tied the Civil Rights movement to the war, it also wound down. And many of these hippies had to cut their hair, buy some decent clothes, and go to work. But many of them were in PECUSA clergy, because that was a good way to get out of being drafted. So they continued up the chain and they began running things in the late 80s and through the 90s, and to some extent they still do. As correctly pointed out, the hippie generation was self-absorbed in its rebellion against the injustices of the generations before it. But it threw the baby out with the bathwater. It threw out moral teachings and ethics necessary to run a society and a church in the name of social justice. And it is still carrying that banner today, unfortunately still only with “rebellion” as the foundational reason for its social justice gospel, not with the foundation of the first great commandment, i.e. it is now rebelling against the Anglican Communion in the name of social justice. It is a generation that was chided in the 50s for not rebelling, and has never found its reason for being since that time other than continuing to rebell.
September 28, 12:29 pm | [comment link]
6. KevinBabb wrote:
“But many of them were in PECUSA clergy, because that was a good way to get out of being drafted. So they continued up the chain and they began running things in the late 80s and through the 90s, and to some extent they still do. “
I wonder how many men in the HOB could fit this sentence into their biographies?
I appreciate your reflections. They give me some idea of the origins of the social chaos that we of the “Yuppie” generation (I was born in 1962) found ourselves stumbling upon, wide-eyed and bewildered, during the disastrous 1970s, with our latchkey lives and “parents” careening through their second adolescences. Fortunately, your generation (basically, the younger members of the generation that preceded us, and the older members of our own generation) gave us the right things to rebel against!!!
September 28, 2:23 pm | [comment link]
7. MargaretG wrote:
An insightful piece. The part I thought most appropriate in view of the current controversy was not quoted. It was
September 28, 9:28 pm | [comment link]
Also, please, please, please don’t assume that they want their Christian lives to mirror their secular culture. You wanted the Church to look more and more like your “times.” They don’t. They want their Christian lives to be counter-cultural, against the secular grain. Yes, they are extremely naïve sometimes about what this actually means but you will lose them instantly if you think an MTV Mass is the hip thing to do. Why would they come to a MTV Mass? They have MTV (and worse) 24/7 on their cell phones. They don’t need or want you for entertainment. Church is not a concert or an amusement park. What they don’t have on their cell phones is the Real Presence of Christ in his Eucharist.
8. MJD_NV wrote:
MargaretG, you & I honed in on the same piece!
An excellent essay, indeed.
September 29, 8:31 am | [comment link]
9. libraryjim wrote:
Two thoughts, one of which I have mentioned before:
When the Chapel of the Resurrection, FSU, called a new chaplain, they had a priest from Canada with ideas of liberal reform, thinking “college is the perfect place for this!”.
However, the students themselves rebelled, stating that they wanted the liturgy as it was in the Prayer Book, none of this inclusive language stuff, no ‘liturgical dance’, no messing around with the service, etc. And started going to other local churches where there was traditional worship. The chaplain resigned in a huff, calling them closed minded/ intolerant/ backwards/ etc. No one much missed him, and St. John’s took over the chaplaincy until they split over theology.
Second. Eric Dudley used as an example in his sermon this past week two Episcopal churches that were trying to reach out to teens:
The first sent out fliers and advertised a bit, and got maybe a dozen teens. But when they got there, all they had was pizza and punch, and very little in the way of entertainment or message. So the teens stopped coming. The next week they had two (for the free food).
The other church set aside room in the parish hall, decorated it for teens (movie posters, etc), brought in a dj from the area who played contemporary Christian music, arranged for a special speaker, had comfortable chairs and a couch for seating, and prospered.
The moral: you have to want and plan for an effective ministry for teens. It doesn’t ‘just happen’.
September 29, 11:29 am | [comment link]
Jim Elliott <><