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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I’m still thinking about them: Farmers. We posted on it earlier this week. The farmer leadership crisis here in Iowa is weighing heavily on my mind. So much so that I want to throw some more thoughts against the wall and see if they stick.

Some of you had some brilliant insights regarding our first post.

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Iowa Farms and the Leadership Gap (And Why You Should Care)

Sunday mornings have come to be know as “Scrambled Egg-stravaganza” in the Wise household. I make eggs (my wife says they’re the best she’s ever had). We watch the news and generally enjoy the morning.

This past Sunday, I saw a news story that hasn’t left my mind. It was about the next generation of Iowa farmers. As older farmers begin to reach retirement age, younger farmers are rising up and take their place. To make this process more efficient, farm co-ops are starting a “farmers mentorship” program, of sorts.

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So What’cha Want …. In Church?

“What is the next generation of North American church-goer looking for?”

I’ve been dwelling on this thought a lot recently. Mainly because I work with young people day-in and day-out. Like most people in church leadership today, I find myself scratching my head, wondering. Vexed!

So I flip the question to you: What are they/you looking for?

  • Megachurch? Minichurch?
  • Lutheran? Baptist? Both? Neither?
  • Hi-tech? Low-tech?
  • Communal? Missional? Theological?

Tell me where you’re at, what you’re hearing, what you’re seeing. What’s working and what’s not working?

Questions like these always demand a context, but I’m wondering if there’s a theme (or two) in the midst of it all? Something tangible that transcends context.

Re-Thinking Our Views

This is a guest post by Sam Mahlstadt.

Have you ever noticed some in the millennial generation are bent on bringing about change to their fields of interest, while maintaining fixed beliefs that actually work against the change they wish to see?

I have a theory: We don’t actually want things to change.

Seriously. Because if things change, we have to learn new systems and alter the way we work.

This effects many different areas in society, but I see it especially in the church.

Young, talented, entrepreneurial Christians with a desire to see the church become a creative expression of Christ’s love for the world, but not committed to change their mindset in order to make their ideas a reality. What’s missing is a belief that we can make a difference from right where we are. Anyone, at any time, can spark change. However, becoming a catalyst for change is difficult, and requires a sacrifice of comfort. Most people will give up on an idea, because even though they want things to change, they don’t really want to give anything up for it.

Trust me, we need your voice. We need your ideas. We need your innovation. If we are going to see the local church become a creative, compassionate and powerful force in our communities, we need you to think differently about yourself. Re-think your views and jump in. We are waiting.

What are you waiting for?

How Would You Describe Gen Y?

We had a visioning meeting yesterday for the ministry I’m involved in. We target 20-somethings in the Des Moines area with a desire to build biblical community.

One of the exercises was to describe the generation that we’re trying to reach. The presenting question was this:

What are three words you would use to describe to the Gen Y/Millenial/Young Adult generation?

Here are mine:

  1. Smart
  2. Compassionate
  3. What’s-In-It-For-Me?

Help me out with some “market research”–What three words would you add to the list?

Work Like a Young Entrepreneur

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Some people get hijacked by Scripture. I get hijacked by people describing their workflows. In particular, Jason Fried’s. Fried founded 37signals.com, a web-based software development company. In an interview in Inc., here’s how he describes a part of his workday:

I usually get to work between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Of the 16 people at the company, eight of us live here in Chicago. Employees come to the office if and when they feel like it, or else they work from home. I don’t believe in the 40-hour workweek, so we cut all that BS about being somewhere for a certain number of hours. I have no idea how many hours my employees work — I just know they get the work done.

Notice how he said “40-hour workweek.” Some weeks, that may mean you work 60, 70 hours. Other weeks it may mean you work 20. Or 10. Or even four. Either way, younger people seem to gravitate towards “getting things done” rather than “punching the clock”. Either way, this is the quintessential work philosophy for the next generation workforce:

  • Show up when they feel it appropriate to show up; when their schedule allows.
  • Work from where they want to work. Not necessarily where a company dictates.
  • Working to accomplish goals rather than passing the time.

If you are leading a team full of young people, this is how they think. If you want to lead a team of young people, this is how they will think. If you are frustrated with the young people in your workforce because they think this way, they will always think this way whether you’re frustrated with them or not. If you aren’t willing to compromise with this younger generation, they will take their time and talents and find a place that will.

This was a great look into a start-up company with a young person at the helm. As young people take leadership positions in America’s workforce, look for more of this, not less.

How College Ministries Will Lead the Digital Church

411417417_5dcb8505fb_oI had a great conversation with a missionary friend the other day. He works and lives in an atmosphere that is very different than mine: A intensely liberal college campus, rated one of the top party schools in the country. So when we found ourselves landing on the exact same ideas about what God was up to in the Church, we knew it was bigger than just us.

In his context, the “large group” model is facing challenges that he hasn’t seen before. Simply put, people aren’t as interested in coming to a large group gathering anymore. What was working was the medium-sized “cluster” groups of about 10-12 people. These groups met weekly and allowed for a deeper connection between the people in that group. He said large group gatherings still held a place in his ministry, but it wasn’t as prominent as it was just five years ago.

These changes and shifts are happening on not just his college campus, but others around the country as well. Large group gatherings don’t have the “pulling power” that they used to for younger people. My own alma mater saw a 50% decline in attendance at the college ministry large group gathering over the last five years while school enrollment steadily increased.

How Can Churches Reach Young People?

What does this all mean? For starters these ministries will necessarily need to change their approach in order to survive, even thrive. The always-sharp, technologically savvy team at LifeChurch.tv has picked up on this and is making an effort to bring LifeChurch to college campuses. Why? From the LifeChurch.tv blog:

God has put a passion in our hearts for college students. We could not be more excited about what he has in store for us in this opportunity. I believe that college students are in a unique place. They gather just about every day in a central place. They are connected to each other in more ways than many other people groups. They are passionate, creative and just plain awesome. We have the opportunity to give them a place to belong and a place to grow in their relationship with Christ while they’re away from home.

This is a huge opportunity and one that we’re uniquely positioned for. Church Online is everywhere. We have been blessed with leaders and volunteers from all over the world, many near colleges and universities. With some time and a lot of effort, I believe that we can create something unique to reach college students where they’re at.

Some Pro-Active Steps

A few thoughts when reflecting on their vision:

  1. What if we stopped complaining and whining about how young people/college students and gave them the resources that allowed them to join the church no matter where they lived?
  2. Churches learned from the models that are working on campuses across the country and began to shift in focus towards more “cluster” groups? Providing resources online to allow these groups to thrive and grow where they already are?
  3. What if we saw this as our chance to invest in a younger generation using tools that they know and are comfortable with–Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, chat rooms, etc.?
  4. What if translating the message of Christ to college students necessitates we begin speaking the language of “digital”? Any good missionary knows that to reach a people group, you must first be able to communicate. Most times that includes knowing the language. Can you speak “digital”? You’ll need to.

Keep in mind that the college students of today will be the church attenders of tomorrow. These young people will be the ones who will “take the torch” from the current generation and build upon the foundation that has already been laid. Also keep in mind these young people will build in the way that makes the most sense to them, not necessarily what has worked in the past. This is a generation that has tried on the armor of Saul and found, much like David, that it doesn’t quite “fit.”

Next time you’re on a college campus, stop and look around. These young people will be the ones shaping, molding and driving a completely new model of ministry.

Are you ready for that?

What the Needs of Young Adults Will Mean For Your Church

NEEDS

We asked the question earlier this week, “what do young people want from a local church?” The answers were wide and varied, but a consistent theme througout most of the comments was community.

Community.

A term that is at once both tangible yet impossibly ambiguous. What exactly does community mean and why are young people craving it so much?

Here’s five quick predictions on what the 21st century church will look like when young adults step into positions of influence in churches:

  1. Home groups, cell groups, mid-sized gatherings will move to the forefront as the primary evangelistic tool for churches.
  2. Large group gatherings will still have a place in the local church, but they will be seen as “icing on the cake,” instead of the cake itself.
  3. Because of the shift towards smaller communities, pastors will take on bi-vocational roles for A.) budgetary reasons, B.) evangelistic reasons.
  4. Denominational seminaries will become a thing of the past. Most theological learning will move online or become highly contextualized and internalized by the local church itself.
  5. “Sinner’s prayer” evangelism (i.e. “linear” evangelism) will give way to a more messy form of discipleship that includes dips and valleys; doubts and discussion.

Phew. All that from a desire for more community. Make no mistake about it, there is a seismic shift occuring in the Western church right now. The next 20-30 years will be some of the most interesting, exciting and challenging times in the Church.

How do you see the need for community shaping the church around you?

What Do Young People Want From a Church?

young

Well?

Today’s an open forum kind of a day. An “open mic night” at BeDeviant.com, if you will.

If it’s one thing that’s perpetually on my mind, it’s asking the question, “what does your average 20-something want from a local church?”

I have some ideas. But I want to hear yours.

Ready? Go.

Why a Four-Day Work Week Will Be the Norm

Screen shot 2009-09-06 at 9.11.36 PM

What would you do with an extra day added to your weekend?

Go fishing?
Sleep in?
Get some yard work done?

How about work out? According to a recent article in Time, that’s what most of the Utah state employees mandated to take a four-day work week would do.

  • One year ago Utah mandated 4-day workweeks (closing on Fridays) for 17,000 state employees in an effort to reduce energy costs.
  • Employees still worked 40 hours, just putting in longer days Monday-Thursday.
  • There was a 13% reduction in energy use, and employees saved a total of $6 million in gas.
  • A whopping 82% of workers say they are in favor of keeping the new schedule.
  • “Fears that working 10-hour days would lead to burnout turned out to be unfounded…workers took fewer sick days and reported exercising more on Fridays. ‘This can really make a difference for work-life balance,’ says Jeff Herring, Utah’s executive director for human resources.”

I know of a few friends who have adopted this schedule and can attest that they are loving it. With the Millenial generation taking the ranks in the workforce in the next 5-15 years, could a five-day work week be a thing of the past?

What do you think? Would you want a perma-three-day weekend?

(HT: Jeremy Anderberg for the awesome research.)

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