Reconnected: Under 40?

“Any existing church SocMed responses that are unembarrassing for you?” Bp Paul asked me, as part of our conversation earlier this month.  I’ve already blogged the first bit here.  

Unembarrassing for me?  I’m easily embarrassed.  I’ve never really got over watching teenagers dancing to Kumbaya when I was about six, it made me cringe.  I have much the same reaction to quite a lot of intentionally Christian modern music.  I’m sorry, I really am.  I want to like it.  But, as mentioned before in these pages, I was brought up on the Book of Common Prayer, so I can chant “O God make speed to save us” with a total lack of sense of anything strange.  I suspect I am not a good embarrassment yardstick for Bp Paul to use. 

I’ve found some interesting churches on Twitter – and I think Claire from St Laurence, Cowley (@StLCowley) deserves a shout, not only for her church tweeting but for her willingness to try using different characters and voices – try @ChirpyBirdy007.  Doing this is time consuming and requires skill, and may not be for everyone, but I like it.  Most churches tweet information about services and events, which strikes me as sensibleparticularly if they are willing to engage in conversations, which is rather the point of Twitter.  Less sensible is the “shout into the ether” – I have met a few examples, and they irritate me, although some learn as time passes, especially if someone talks back to them.  All communication is two way. 

But there is a more underlying difficulty, beautifully illustrated by Richard Coles on Twitter this morning…


…where Christians have tried to appropriate a “cultural symbol” and change its meaning to something more Christian.  Now this IS embarrassing.  Acid House was around late 1980’s or so?  So the symbol is not terribly culturally relevant to people under 40.  They mostly won’t know about the significance of a rainbow, other than in a Gay Pride context.  So the Christian use of these symbols isn’t helpful in terms of reconnecting.

Therein lies the problem.  If Christians try to appropriate secular symbols, we mostly look daft.  It’s like me answering my daughter with the phrase “I’m down with that” (it means “that’s fine”).  I become inauthentic.  I am no longer quite me (unless I do it with heavy irony). Somehow there has to be a way to remain authentically ourselves while connecting with others.  After all, we all do it every day (unless we are totally cocooned by other Christians, in which case we really need to think about how we are responding to the Great Commission).  We all survive in this mysterious culture which so frightens Christians.  God is already there, working within it.  We don’t need to assign Christian meaning to every last event, we just need to articulate where God is.  Authentically.  Living like we believe it.  


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One response to “Reconnected: Under 40?

  1. Well said.

    On BAP, the assessors seemed to think that I'd get on well with Old ladies but might have difficulty connecting with the young. Evidence? Was never asked. I have 5 teenage grandchildren – connecting with them needs a different language, but not descending to using their – but asking for explanations of meaning helps to understand them better.

    And, they fully understand how I and my spouse talk with them, and our jokes are actually new to them.

    It's a mistake to believe that we have to accept the lowest common denominator in communication, but it's unhelpful to disregard how we do communicate.

    I found in the Army that young recruits connected well with people, just a little older than them, empowered as their junior leaders and instructors – our role was to develop and to encourage new entrants to emulate them. It worked because of the good role models they provided.

    I believe that role models of all ages are important – in the context of the church if we are really serious about connecting with those outside the church, particularly the young, we need to develop a similar model. I know that it's working in some places, our Youth group has adult supervisors but encourages members as they grow and mature to take on leadership roles. Being mentored and guided but given the opportunity to lead. It seems to work as we keep them until mid-teens and later in some cases.

    The year before last, 12 members of that group came forward for confirmation which was affirming for the Youth Group leaders. It's happening again, but in smaller numbers. Those who lead the group have unique gifts, not least of having teenage children themselves. The give of their time selflessly and provide the role models to bring others on.

    Communication, communication and more communication seems to work.

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