by Sharon Ely Pearson
A week ago, over 400 individuals from across the United States (plus Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand) gathered in Washington, DC at Calvary Baptist Church for a conference to explore what Christianity is about in today’s world with a focus on children and youth. A wide range of denominations were represented: Southern Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists, Anabaptists and Mennonites. Everyone arrived hoping for a new vision of what is emerging in ministry with children and youth in our churches, schools, homes and communities.
Organized by Dave Csinos and others with a passion for emergent practices and spurred by Brian McLaren’s work in visioning a “New Kind of Christianity,” a cadre of top-notched speakers gave TED talk type presentations as well as numerous workshops. In the weeks to come I’ll be sharing specific articles on each of the topics that spurred by curiosity to dig deeper.
We are living in a new age. Brian McLaren summed it up in the first keynote on the opening evening. Past generations were formed in the shadow of the Iron Curtain (pre-1989) with today’s adults (those over 40), if they were church-goers, having their faith community as a central part of their life. In 1991, the world changed, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and all that followed. A paradigm shift occurred across the globe and it continues to shape our societies today. We’ve seen a collapse of a fossil-fuel-based economy, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the rise of a post-modern society.
McLaren laid out the challenges:
- More and more people are realizing that “congregational life” of the future will be different.
- The church (and faith communities in all its forms) need to deal with some fundamental questions.
- If children’s ministries try to change in our churches, parents often get upset. It is because they want to repeat what they remember “worked” for them. But that is not the world today, and who’s to say what they “remember” is what actually “worked”?
And some possible avenues for change:
- We need to move out of our denominational silos
- Those who work with children and youth in our communities have the best possibilities to make a difference in the church today.
- Simply Pastor Matt shares his reflection on Brian McLaren’s keynote (plus that of John Westerhoff and other plenary speakers on his blog)
- Highlights from “Children, Youth and a New Christianity” on Patheos from Carl Gregg
What new visions do you have for the future of children & youth ministries?