I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think.
Wish we could turn back time, to the good ‘ol days when our momma sang us to sleep
But now we’re stressed out.
-Twenty one Pilots, Stressed Out
It’s the banner anthem of a generation that the folks at the research firms spend so much time trying to figure out. The song encapsulates the mood of a generation that seems resigned to a permanent state of hopelessness. It’s a generation that was told they could be anything and do anything. Now they’re waving the white flag paralyzed by college debt they’ve accumulated while attempting to keep up with the internalized expectations dished out by others.
A Bad Deal
Whereas previous generations sought a double portion of wealth and status, this song depicts a generation reconciled. They don’t expect to attain a single helping of wealth or status. So they don’t do much of anything.
The author and management consultant, Simon Sinek argues that this generation—a.k.a. The Millennials—were handed a bad deal. Some grew up with helicopter parents, others grew up with absentee parents. Because of the anxiety and hopelessness that Millennials face, Sinek suggests that Millennials need people and environments where they can develop the ‘soft skills’ that lead to deep and meaningful relationships.
Sinek suggests that it’s the employers who must step in to fill in the gaps. He says that corporate culture must recognize the need to develop the soft skills of younger workers. I’ll suggest another, safer place for soft skills development—the living room.
Living Room Mission
What if a new wave of spiritual mothers and fathers envisioned their lives and homes as hubs for mission and cultural renewal? This kind of renewal is a far cry from a return to the good ‘ol days of bedtime lullabies. I’m not talking about a white picket fence. I’m talking about a roll up your sleeves opportunity to seek the relational and spiritual awakening of those longing for home, family and community. And this deep longing isn’t just for millennials, it’s for everybody. But the Millennials aren’t afraid to say it.
If we step back and examine ourselves, our families and our communities; the anthem of millennial malaise is true for a good many more of us than we realize. It’s not hard to find groups of Christians clinging to the good ‘ol days. Some thought that when they got older, they wouldn’t be concerned with what others thought about them or their church. Some thought their childhood experience of faith was synonymous with the type of childlike faith Jesus demands. Some used to dream big dreams. But no longer. Now they’re hopelessly stressed out about how to pay for it all.
The Family, On Mission
When we reimagine the family on mission as a wave of spiritual mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and friends living and sharing life together, not only will we see transformation in the Church, we’ll see whole neighborhoods, workplaces and communities transformed as well.
The family is the primary organizing element of any society. Break that and you break the whole thing. In the church, our programming often frustrates and contributes to the brokenness. We separate children from teenagers and younger adults from older adults. Sometimes for good reason. But when this is all we do, we miss out on our greatest gift to each other.
The essence of the Christian witness is that God is not clingy. God is self-giving. God’s coming in Christ is a literal gift.
If Christians are called to follow Jesus, then our lives are our greatest gift. A gift to the world and a gift to each other. And while in many places it’s broken and in desperate need of repair; on this side on this of eternity, at least, the powerfully messy mystery of marriage should be the best example of this sort of reciprocal self-giving love. And the home should be the safest place to create an extended family where the waters of baptism and the blood of the covenant redeem the mess.
On March 15-17, we’re undertaking a risky Kingdom-inspired experiment designed to bring church home and reimagine the family on mission. I’m believing that it’s the start of a new wave of mission as significant as the ministry of St. Patrick himself. And you’re invited.
If the church is wherever two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, then every church is comprised of dozens, if not hundreds, of little domestic churches situated out on the front lines of evangelism; mentoring the young, caring for the old and seeing lives transformed for the sake of Jesus’s self-giving love.
In a day when many of our communities and churches are encased in a cultural malaise, instead of being stressed out, let’s figure out how to do something about it instead.
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.