As we reflect on what it means to “Be Church,” it is essential to recognize the various “audiences” we engage, the “message” we intend to share, and the “formational elements” they need to prepare to be active participants in a faith community and responsive contributors to God’s mission.
WHO ARE WE TRYING TO REACH?
There a a variety of ways to approach the question of who we are trying to reach. Age, philosphical “home,” developmental stage, level of church (institutional) affiliation, personality type, and learning style are but a few of the characteristics to consider. Ultimately, these elements converge within a matrix that can guide your approach to ministry.
Karl Mannheim first introduced the significance of birth cohort in his 1952 essay “The Problem of Generations.” William Strauss and Neil Howe expanded on his conceptions in their books Generations: The Future of America’s History 1584-2069 (1992) and The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997). They spent the past twenty plus years identifying and explaining generational idiosyncrasies and characteristics noting common generational beliefs and behavioral patterns that seemed to reflect a shared location in history. Reflecting definitive events and circumstances experienced during one’s life, they identify genrational persona formed in a matrix of cultural, social, political, religious, and economic conditions. They christened recent generations within the United States according to birth range:
- GI – born 1901-1924
- Silent – born 1925-1942
- Boomers – born 1943-1960
- Thirteenth (also called Gen X) – born 1961-1981
- Millenials (also called Gen Y, and GeNext) – 1982-2002 (?)
- Howe and Stauss do not continue. Some are referring to the current birth cohort as Gen Z or the Internet Generation. Author Marc Prensky calls them “Digital Natives” inferring that the rest are “Digital Immigrants.”
How these generational cycles operate from a faith perspective and are applied within a faith community are explored in Generations of Faith: A Congregational Atlas (Alban, 2002)by pastor Carl Eeman, and One Church, Four Generations: Understanding and Reaching All Ages in your Church (Baker Books, 2002) by Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership Gary McIntosh.
Human Communications “Home”
- Mass Mediated – Print and Electronic Broadcast
- Digital – Interactive, Convergence of Media
Circle of Affiliation
- Unchurched – no experience of a faith community or affiliation with a religious group
- Seeker – uninitiated person aspiring to enlightenmemt, salvation, religious meaning-making and/or a connection with God
- Dechurched – inactive baptized member
- Cultural Practice – baptized member who adheres to religious beliefs and practices (abstaining from meat on Friday, going to church on Sunday)
- Lay Minister – baptized member infuses faith into daily life by living her/his baptismal covenant in the world and/or by actively participating in the life of the faith community. In the Episcopal church, the laity “represent Christ and his Church, bear witness to Christ wherever they may be, and, according to the gifts given to them, carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world, and take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the church.” (Book of Common Prayer, p 855)
- Lay Ecclesial Minister – baptized non-ordained professional working within the church. This term includes individuals who are typically employed in positions like director of religious education, pastoral associate, youth minister, campus chaplain, or hospital chaplain.
- Clergy – ordained professional working within the church.
Within the Episcopal church, these individuals are ordered and have specified roles:
– deacons typically focus on some form of service, especially those in need (Book of Common Prayer, p 556)
– priests “represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; share in the overseeing of the church, proclaim the Gospel, administer the sacraments, and bless and declare pardon in the name of God (Book of Common Prayer, p 856)
– bishops “represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole church; proclaim the Word of God; act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the buiilding up of the church; and ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry.” (Book of Common Prayer, p 855)
WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO SAY?
HOW ARE WE FORMING PEOPLE TO HEAR AND INTERPRET OUR MESSAGE(S)?
Being Church identifies how each member – as an individual and as part of a faith community – is the church. How we live