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Next week I’ll be in Houston, speaking and preaching at a conference that is for young adults in the seminary discernment process. The students will come from a diversity of backgrounds: theological, racial, denominational, sexual and gender identity, and Christian cultural traditions. I’m excited to be with the men, women, and people in discernment.
Going to seminary was one of my best decisions. Aside from the thousands of dollars that are like my kids that I feed monthly (which is something that anyone considering seminary seriously needs to discern if the debt is worth it), there is not a piece of me that regrets going to seminary. I believe in seminary education so much so that when the lottery is really big I will buy a couple tickets and make a list of what I want to do with that money before I win (never hurts to be prepared). At the top of that list is funding seminary students, theological centers, and professors who focus on liberation theologies. Good theology saves lives. Certainly seminary is not the only place theology is taught, but even in the flux of institutional stability, seminary still matters.
I’m an older millennial who will be speaking to younger millennials at this event in Houston. This is an important cultural observation because I believe that there are great resources, power, and creativity living within millennials and the cohort I will be speaking with. I’ve been part of a lot of forums lately where boomers will come into millennial groups thinking they are there to impart the wisdom of how ministry should be done. No offense, dear boomers, but I don’t want to do ministry the way you’ve done it. Invest in new leaders with your finances (lord knows the debt issue is real), nurture the new generation of leaders with your prayers and care, but the old model of “who has the most experience is there to teach the ones who have the least experience” is outdated. Intrinsic in millennial thinking is that we are simultaneously teacher and student.
I am excited to help nurture the new leaders next week in theological reflection, pastoral reflection, and most importantly (IMHO) staying true to their particular voice in ministry (because the pastor is a person first; the pastor is not a pastor first). I’m excited what they will teach me and how I will hear the voice of God in their minds articulating their hopes, fears, and dreams for the church. Nurturing new leaders means listening to how the Spirit is speaking anew in our questions and curiosities.
My best friend, Reverend John Russell Stanger (who is also a millennial clergy leader), and I started a YouTube show called The Real Reverends of New York City. I have never met someone who is equally sassy and serious about our calling as ministers (which is probably why John is my best friend). In one of our episodes we name the gifts and particularities of what it means to be millennial leaders. My hope and prayer is that churches around the world would create and curate intentional environments and resources that allow millennial leaders to grow and flourish. This is not a zero sum economy where our progress means another generation’s decline. There is room for all in the church, whether you’re a baby boomer, gen x, millennial, or whatever we’ll end up calling the generations that come next.