Saturday, March 7

What makes a Cast Away Christian? Reason #4

So we are down to my final reason that Yong Adults are distanced from religion and that is The Episcopal Church itself. Youth in our church are told that they are the future of our church. They are made to believe how important they are to the life of the church. They are coddled and given everything. Parishes will bend over backwards to help them pay for their ski trip or mission trip to Mississippi to help out hurricane victims. Parishes let them preach and even have a youth Sunday to show how important they are. Our Diocese even has a delegation of youth that allows one youth from each convocation to vote and be a part of the governing body of the church. They have retreat weekends, provincial and national gatherings to go to. I know that all sounds great, but as I have said before, every positive has a negative side effect.

The negative I see is that we are spending so much time "doing" things for our youth, that we are not equipping them with the skills needed to do it on their own. Very few of our youth have been given leadership training, so when they get to college or young adulthood, they have no idea how to act in the church. They just wait for someone to give them something to do, and most of the time the church doesn't do that so they are left to be a lonely pew sitter. We are good about giving money to youth groups, but most of our college ministries can't even afford a meeting space. Most parishes have a youth room, some young adults don't even have a spiritual guide they can talk to. They are left to go to a parish where they know no one and sit quietly in the back until someone notices them and says something. And when the going gets tough, one of the first things to go is that college ministry or the youth/young adult priest starts concentrating on the youth. It sends a message that the church really doesn't care about us. It says that unless we are willing to put ourselves out there and ask for help that we are going to spend the next years lonely in our faith. Even worse, we wonder why when young adults have kids they aren't coming back to the church. They aren't coming back because they were thirsty and we had no time to give them water. And if we are not careful, there wont be anyone who wants to come back.

All these factors lead to a generation or two who are lost. They have no family near them, superficial friends that they communicate with mostly on the internet, no church to run to when times get tough, and actual friends who are only there for them if they don't bring God in to the conversation. That is what I mean when I say Cast Away Christians. I have faith and hope that one day young adults will find a way to stand up and be heard, that parishes will know how to hear them, and that youth will be turned into leaders that know the right language. It is possible, we all just have to be ready to work together and figure it out so that the generations after us don't have to feel lost and cast away by the church.

1 comment:

  1. You never ceased to amaze me with these posts. I would agree with some of what you say, but disagree with another. I would start with what I agreed with first.


    1. Indeed, for those of us who are deemed "capable" in the eyes of people inside OUR OWN churches (in my case... outside also applies), we are deemed as the future leaders of the church. Also, churches think that by investing money in us to go to certain events (ala Camino or our local diocese's events), we would be equipped to be the future leaders our own churches.

    I personally say that the notion is really false because of a few reasons.

    A. Not all of peers in our churches are on the same page as we do, which sometimes make us feel that we are lone rangers.

    B. Sometimes the older generation would just dump one responsibility after another on you without providing much support.

    C. (at least to me) Sometimes the things I got out of certain Episcopal events would be tossed to the wayside because there's no avenue for me to use them at my own church.

    D. (also to me) Despite going to events where I am supposed to get leadership skills, I am actually very ill-equipped to lead any group by myself. I am proof of "willingness to step up to the plate" doesn't equal to "leader material". But time and time again, I have to step out of my comfort zone and become an enforcer (the leadership style I am more comfortable in). While that style could work in the short run, it just doesn't in the long run.

    2. Being billed as "future leader" of our churches can be a catch-22. If you take up some responsibilities associated that are associated with that tag, people in your church might not know why you do them. (I know that's the case with me with Chinese ministry in my church.) On the other hand, if you don't do some of the stuff you are "supposed to do", you feel guilty because you are letting somebody down.


    1. Not all churches have the resources to conduct good programs for young people. I am a living miracle, in terms of someone who doesn't have much of the benefit of growing with youth or young adult group. My former church is very poor, as hiring a youth minister would get them further along in the already growing deficit.

    2. All of my former rectors didn't really care a lot on young people development. (Then again, not many clergies can work in my former parish successfully due to possible language barriers if they don't know how to speak Cantonese AND Mandarin.) If they don't care, then the congregation won't care, either. All in all, this has to start from the rector and move on down to the congregation members.

    3. In ethnic ministries, at least in Chinese, generation gap is really apparent. Most potential young leaders are second generation and beyond. However, most of the current leaders (including myself) are first generation immigrants. Not only there might be communication issues, but also idealogical issues. After all, as a first generation Chinese immigrant, we innately understand why Chinese ministry is in place. However, the second generation and beyond don't really understand because they don't have the struggles to learn English. Thus, take St. Peter's in Baltimore, where there used to be a huge Chinese congregation years before Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry was established. Now, because most of the members are now second generations and beyond, (at least in my speculation) they don't feel the need of having Chinese ministry any more. Thus, they might not feel obligated to participate in Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry. True, churches have to adopt to the times. But, I do have to blame the rest of the Episcopal Church for being disconnect with ethnic ministries. In turn, this contributes to the "young leaders" population in ethnic ministries smaller than it should be.

    I know programs in the dioceses trying to be "inclusive" by having "generic programs" that are for everyone. But, a more practical solution would actually be programs that allows all young people explore and understand the purpose of ethnic ministries in our churches. I personally think this would actually equip our young leaders that much better. I personally would start this at the "Rite 13" or "J2A" levels.