“Never in Canada’s 150 year history has an emerging generation been exposed to such an explosion of change and choice,” Tim Froese said in his “Scripture in Exile” workshop Saturday afternoon. Attended by persons of all ages, the workshop focused on how this generation, like no other, is working with a completely new set of cultural constructs as it struggles to find a faith expression based in the biblical narrative.
Froese, growing up a “missionary kid” in India and as an adult in Brazil and Panama and now executive minister for Mennonite Church Canada Witness, not only enumerated the interests, values and commitments of the younger generation based on David Kinnaman’s research, but outlined the new multi-cultural nature of our world with its many “isms.” The influences of pluralism, consumerism and globalism on our everyday lives prompt the question, “Who is my neighbour?” and give, especially the young, a sense of “exile” in a land foreign to their elders.
“Young people are leaving the church not because they won’t listen or aren’t trying to fathom what the church has to say,” he quoted Kinnaman of the Barna Group. “A large majority of young people consider themselves spiritual, seeking, or as possessing some sort of faith. However, at some point the message the church is sending doesn’t add up with what they are experiencing in the rest of their lives.”
This seemed to resonate with several of the young persons attending. “An important ingredient to keeping me in the church,” said one youth in attendance, “is because my parents were highly immersed in congregational life and gave me the excitement needed to want to belong.” Another observed that elderly mentors were key to “showing an interest in my development and questions as I journeyed through a spiritually formative period.”
As a path forward out of this dilemma, Froese recommended that the church refocus its mission on “making disciples,” particularly through intergenerational relationships. “We need to reprioritize wisdom,” he said, again referencing Kinnaman, “because wisdom empowers us to live faithfully in a changing culture. Older generations imparting wisdom upon Mosaics (a category of young persons) will help them better discern and sift through the mass of unlimited information they consume every day.”