God is up to something new within our community, within our church.
The church talks a good game when it comes to community. We focus on “being” together in congregations. But the world is shifting.
Our very understanding of what community is changing as a relationships in a digital age are stretching our understanding of what it is to be together. Communities are no longer exclusively geographic, but instead can be defined by interest, education or affinity.
At the same time, the church struggles with how to do ministry with young adults. The number of blogs and videos that have popped up in the last two years explaining why or how the church has “lost” young adults is almost overwhelming; they describe the problem well. And any time you gather a group of clergy, or congregational staff folk together, and you bring up the topic of young adults, the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth is almost immediate.
No one really knows what to do about it.
Enter Rev. Josh Graber and the Living-Learning Initiative.
Drawing together young adults to live together in an intentional community for a “gap-year” experience. The Living-Learning web site describes a communal experience that would center around faith practices, such as service projects (10-15 hours a week), theological reflection, bible study, spiritual exercise, prayer, worship leadership, and participation in local congregations and ministries. A skilled facilitator would lead and administer each community (half-time to full-time salary range), with help from local volunteers. A network of Christians, often through local congregations, would pledge to support these young adults in the experience, and in return the young adults would share their valuable perspectives, hours of service, and gifts with the communities that host them.
Visualize “The Real World” meets service-learning meets Jesus.
The church has a tradition of intentional community to draw on, (see Holden Village and the Highlander Folk School),we have a vibrant and lively theology of community and ecclesiology and we have a deep need to engage young adults for the sake of Christ’s mission in the world.
We also have Josh, one of the most passionate people I have encountered around this issue. He is a gift to the church.
I am occasionally asked by young adults about ways that they can participate in mission after high school. We’ll talk about seminary…we’ll talk about Lutheran Volunteer Corps or AmeriCorps…we’ll talk about Teach for America…we’ll talk about Holden… I am very excited that there is something new to talk about. I am excited that there is the possibility for community, reflection and service to be drawn together into an experience that is really about discerning meaning for individuals, communities and the world.
I’m excited about the Living-Learning Initiative and what it can mean for the life of those who participate and for the church. The first pilot community is opening up in September in Toledo, Ohio. We’ll be watching closely. I hope you will be too!
You can also follow the initiative on Facebook.