Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Gen Me & Church Structures
Last week I posted on the book Generation Me, by Jean Twenge. I wanted to spend some time reflecting on how the generational shifts she describes affects the church. In a previous post I mused on Gen Me and evangelism.
Today, I would like to consider how such a generational shift affects the polity or structures of the church.
First, there seems to be more vocal dis-satisfaction with processes within the institution. At the same time there are positive movements of young clergy to work for change. Certainly there have always been gadflys in the UMC, but Gen Me has a proclivity to be more outspoken. Their parents had more of a "take one for the team" mentality. Thus, when this generation comes across structures or processes that don't make sense to them, they speak out. For instance, the young clergy in my conference are organizing a meeting with the bishop to discuss young clergy issues.
Secondly, Gen Me's difficulty receiving criticism affects structures and polity. Take the ordination process for instance. Not everybody passes on the first try. At times during this process there is a need for negative feedback. This becomes a big challenge to Gen Me's. Gen Me bristles at the thought that their work may not be good enough. There is currently a lot of noise about the process and how it needs to be changed. The challenge is filtering out the "criticism-sensitivity" noise and addressing the weaknesses and injustices that exist in the system.
A third way Gen Me affects systems and polity is the way they collaborate in a different way. A characteristic of Gen Me is emphasis or primacy of the individual. However, Gen Me still finds ways to bring their individual voices together in collaboration using technology. (Web 2.0 and Social Networking) I have seen this in and outside the church. First, is the coming together of young clergy across the nation to join together to address some of the issues they see in the church, sharing ideas and resources over Twitter, Facebook, liveblogs, and weblogs.
In the larger culture the open-source movement and the beta culture are relatively new ways of collaborating on projects. In the beta and open-source culture the software is usually encountered as an individual and then comments/fixes/or changes are made as an individual to repository or the software's original maker. So, many people collaborate, but the role of the individual is still primary.
How do you think generational shifts are changing church structures, polity, and culture as a whole?