I sat in a room with teams from nine congregations. They are from seven different denominations. They are from five counties. They have between 60 and 400 people who regularly show up for services. They are participating in a grant initiative called “Engaging Young Adults”. They entered the initiative because they wanted to learn what to do to connect their congregations to young adults, and they were willing to spend three years in a process.
The process started with having the congregations listen to people from 19 to 34 years old. They had to figure out ways in smaller settings, in twos and threes to ask questions and then listen to the answers. To talk to people in all kinds of settings with all kinds of connections to church. Because before you start to run programs or create initiatives or build buildings, you need to listen.
On this day, we were listening to what the teams had learned in nine months of listening and talking and eating and piloting. Each team talked about how much they learned by listening. Each team is considering next steps that are different from the other teams, clearly shaped by the community they live in, the faith community they are part of, the people they listened to. As I listened to stories of listening, I was encouraged.
Their stories are still unfolding and are theirs to tell. But I can make some observations.
- Adults are adults,.people are people, and adjectiving them is risky. (As in “young adults”.)
- People tend to want to connect to faith of some sort, to connect to other people and to connect to doing something that matters.
- Although people of all ages spend time staring at screens (like you right now), most people like face-to-face interaction with people they trust.
- There is a difference between talking about Jesus and telling people about Jesus.
- Most people want to be respected enough to be listened to.
In the US, this is a holiday weekend. In my family, this is my niece’s wedding. There is much opportunity to listen to each other.
May you take the time.
Three cousins: Maddie, Hope, and Natalie (bride).