This article appeared in the July 27 Baptist News Global Blog.
Churches are grappling with Millennials who want their church membership defined in terms of mission and ministry, not names on a roll.
By Jeff Brumley
The value and purpose of church membership is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Baptist and other congregations these days.
And that’s “hot” as in controversial and heated, not popular. And it’s one that occasionally pits older and younger generations against each other.
The debate comes down to this: older folks see church membership as logical and necessary while Millennials and other young people say it makes no sense.
“There’s a lot of generational angst” around the topic, said Bob Ballance, senior minister at Pine Street Church, an American Baptist congregation in Boulder, Colo.
About 30 percent of that congregation consists of Millennials, who see meaningful participation in church life as more important than being on the rolls. Older members sometimes don’t get it, he said.
Wanda Kidd was curious by the phenomenon after speaking to several college students recently. So much so that she penned a blog for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on July 22 as a way to explore the subject and get church leaders talking.
“As I talk to young adults about the value of membership in a local church, there is a real push back,” wrote Kidd, college ministry coordinator for CBF of North Carolina. She said it begs for a larger conversation about what it means to belong to a congregation.
“It seems to be a barrier that these generations cannot cross,” Kidd told Baptist News Global.
‘Affirm their engagement’
Other experts say the membership issue has been simmering for at least a three decades and is now coming to a head with the emergence of the Millennial generation.
And no one is exempt from it, said Eddie Hammett, a congregational consultant and president of Transforming Solutions in North Carolina.
“It’s across all denominations and even the size of church doesn’t seem to matter,” Hammett said.
Differing viewpoints are split right along generational lines, he said. One group sees membership as a critical measure of success, while the other sees it as pointless and even hypocritical because members often don’t attend church.
“They want the church to affirm their engagement in mission and outreach,” Hammett said. “That’s how they define membership.”
It’s increasingly becoming a volatile issue in some congregations, he added.
“This is a defining moment for the future of the church.”
‘A rhythm of life’
And it’s a moment that’s been a long time coming, said George Bullard, a church consultant and strategic coordinator of the South Carolina-based Columbia Partnership.
What Kidd has identified in her blog, Bullard said in an email to BNG, is something that has been happening for about the past three decades in North America that has now become mainstream and is impacting the traditional church significantly enough that “virtually everyone is noticing it.”
Some churches started searching for solutions even 30 years ago, Bullard said.
“The pastors and other leaders of newer, innovative congregations began to talk about the word ‘connecting’ rather than the word ‘membership,’” he said. “They suggested that adults during the first half of their adulthood desire to connect with one or more communities of faith, rather than to be members of one community of faith.”
Even then, before the rise of the Millennial generation, some young Christians were drawn more to “movements of meaning and significance rather than organizations with patterns and habits that appear to be in a rut,” Bullard said.
Churches today need to be equally creative at finding alternatives to traditional membership, said Travis Collins, director of mission advancement for the U.S. operation of Fresh Expressions, an international movement to help churches navigate postmodern culture.
Noting that membership as typically practiced does not appear in scripture, Collins said in some cases improved language may do the trick.
“Some really good churches now talk about something like ‘covenant relationships’ instead of ‘membership,’” he said. “People decide, often annually, whether they will commit to the church’s rhythm of life, to the church’s values and mission.”
Collins said Kidd’s blog is a shot across the bow, reminding churches they can no longer take traditional practices for granted.
‘Not a good rationale’
Kidd said she believes that message will take about 20 years to sink in as churches increasingly come across young people unwilling to sign on the dotted line.
“They want to know what the advantage is, what’s in it for them,” she told BNG. “If you tell them you can teach Sunday school or be on the finance committee — that is not a good rationale for them.”
That’s also what Ballance has found at Pine Street Church in Boulder.
While older adults have warmly welcomed Millennials into the church, he said, occasionally one will express concern that younger Christians are “getting away without being committed.”
Younger people will occasionally complain, too, he said.
“The whole concept of membership smacks of exclusivity and they have no interest in it — but they do want to be involved,” he said.
- See more at: https://baptistnews.com/ministry/congregations/item/30312-young-adults-challenging-traditional-church-membership-concepts#sthash.X43YXTBo.dpuf
Why the arts?
As we look back on the last 18 months at Pine Street Church, the changes in our programming are astounding. Most notably, we've opened our curricular Off Broadway Preschool under the direction of Emily L'Hommedieu and expanded the offerings of our Off Broadway School of Fine Arts led by director Cathy Compton through renovating and reopening our facility next door. Our renewed and revamped focus on Creativity and our expanded definition of Community have allowed us to increase the impact of our congregation in Boulder. By embracing the arts not only in our Sunday morning services, but also throughout the whole week through lessons, classes, and special events, we are able to better approach our mission of enriching the lives of our diverse population, regardless of labels that might otherwise divide us. And it just so happens that the physical structure that houses us as a congregation on Sundays provides the perfect canvas for God to help us be Creative by allowing the arts to flourish here the whole week long. This article outlines how many churches are embracing a similar journey... although instead of thinking of the church as a "landlord" for the arts, we strive to create a model where religious and artistic experiences are two arms serving our diverse world together.
Congratulations to our own Pete Sprenkle for his 41 years of coaching! See the story below from The Daily Camera.
Softball: Annual Boulder IDT already misses Sprenkle41-year local coaching fixture hanging up whistle
By Brad Cochi, 06/30/2015
BOULDER — The annual Boulder Independence Day Tournament is a veritable who's who of the national club softball scene.
This year, possibly the Boulder area's most well-known coach won't be in a dugout or down the third base line for the first time in a long time. After 41 years coaching softball, Boulder Stars head man Peter Sprenkle is hanging it up at 78 years young.
"Clearly I'll miss coaching because coaching is teaching and I like to teach," Sprenkle said. "I'll miss the interaction with the girls and their parents. I like taking care of the field and the clinics and the camps, and I may still continue to do that kind of stuff. My wife and I just decided it was time to take a break."
Sprenkle's granddaughter Julia McCue graduated from Fairview High School in May and is playing with his Boulder Stars for her grandfather's final season. For his final summer, Sprenkle is coaching the Boulder Stars in a more laid-back recreational league without the pressures of college recruiting, frequent travel and a playing 100 games or more. Those of his players who wanted to continue playing club at a more competitive level were free to join other clubs.
While his club was still competing at the highest level, Sprenkle has compiled a record of 1,550-761 to date while coaching at both the club and high school level. The Boulder Stars have won multiple state titles and two years ago finished second out of 65 teams at the Triple Crown World Series in Park City, Utah.
"I've had to opportunity to coach with my daughter and I now go to games and some of the opposing coaches are girls that used to play for me," Sprenkle said. "We've won a lot of games and we've won a lot of tournaments. We've done really well. But what I'll miss most is the time spent with the kids."
Sprenkle founded the Boulder Valley Girls Softball Association in 1978 and has since authored two books including "A Softball Coaches Tool Kit." He is also the recipient of several national softball coaching awards.
Boulder's biggest softball tournament won't be the same without Boulder's most influential softball mind.
"Pete and I go way back and he's a good man," Boulder IDT tournament director Dan Burns said. "No one has done more for youth softball in this area than Pete, there's no doubt about that. I'm happy that he was able to do it for as long as he has. He'll be missed, no doubt about it, but he's still going to be around and involved so that's good."
Even without Sprenkle's team competing, this year's Boulder IDT will be littered with local talent with six clubs from the Colorado Stars organization in the mix. Between Burns' Stars Gold 18U team and the five others — CO Stars Sakamoto 18U, CO Stars Rob 18U, CO Stars '99 16U, CO Stars Workman 16U — over two dozen high school players from Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont, Erie, Frederick and other surrounding areas will be playing in front of 350-400 college coaches and recruiters.
Expanding to 216 teams this year, the Boulder IDT will include an 80-team 18-under tournament in Boulder, a 32-team 18-under tournament in Louisville, a 56-team 16-under tournament in Longmont and a new 48-team 14-under tournament in Broomfield. The Broomfield-based Colorado Warriors '01 club will play in the 14-under division.
The Boulder IDT will begin with pool play from Wednesday to Friday. Elimination play will begin on Saturday and end with the semifinals and finals on Sunday at Stazio Fields in Boulder.
Follow Brad on Twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi
As part of Pine Street Church's ever expanding mission to foster creativity and individual expression in our community, our Off Broadway School of Fine Arts provides a variety of lessons, classes, and activities. Help us spread the word about our programming by downloading the poster below and sharing with a friend or neighbor, or posting on a bulletin board. Thanks in advance for your help!
Off Broadway School of Fine Arts
1235 Pine Street, Boulder, 80302
Our church's "Holy Rollers" bowling team (Jo White, Jessica and Rob Foster, Dr. Bob, Stuart Lord, and Kerry Hassler) had a fun time helping raise funds for Flatirons Habitat for Humanity low-income home construction during their June 7 "Bowl n' Build" event at the Coal Creek Bowling Center in Lafayette. In all, this event raised $7500 for FHFH, of which our church provided $460 in donations and pledges. Some of our donations came from "bowler challenges" during the fundraiser, which required a bowler to wear a special outfit while bowling. Dr. Bob is shown wearing a construction worker outfit; and Rob, "The Dude" outfit. Thanks for your support of this FHFH fundraiser!
Habitat for Humanity of Guatemala will be with us at Pine Street Church on Sunday, May 31!
You're invited to join us for coffee and conversation with the Executive Director of Habitat Guatemala, Luis Samayoa, and the Director of Donor Relations, Steven Cook.
Where: Parlor on the main floor of Pine Street Church.
What: Luis and Steven are traveling through the western United States to meet with their partners here, and you are part of this through our church's support of Flatirons Habitat! Please share with others who might also be interested in learning more about Habitat in Central America, and Global Village trips.
Questions? Contact Catherine Ballance: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the press release below from Yale ISM! Our Pastor Bob Ballance along with music leaders David L'Hommedieu and Ryan Connell are looking forward to their trip this June!
The Yale Institute of Sacred Music is pleased to announce that Pine Street Church is among seven congregations from all over the U.S. selected to attend the ISM Congregations Project Summer Seminar in June, 2015. Each congregation is working on a project related to the theme From Generation to Generation.
For the seminar, leadership teams from the congregations gather with ISM and guest faculty on the Yale campus for five days to form a diverse ecumenical community of ministers, musicians, scholars, and other church leaders. The curriculum is shaped by the theme and designed to support the congregations’ individual projects, which build on their particular strengths in worship, music, and the arts; to expand their capacity to serve the surrounding community; and to nurture ecumenical partnerships.
Pine Street Church in Boulder, CO is a congregation founded in 1872 that fully embraces the redeeming teachings of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, while at the same time affirms the courageous leadership of those working for peace and justice outside the Christian tradition.
At the Yale seminar pastor Bob Ballance and music directors David L'Hommedieu and Ryan Connell will present their project Performing Before the Aeropagus, which builds on their experience with a nontraditional Good Friday concert series that in 2015 was based on Radiohead’s “Kid A.” More information about all the congregations and their projects is at ismcongregations.yale.edu/congregations.
The Yale Institute of Sacred Music is an interdisciplinary graduate center that educates leaders who foster, explore, and study engagement with the sacred through music, worship, and the arts in Christian communities, diverse religious traditions, and public life. The ISM Congregations Project website, with information about its faculty, the congregations, themes, and application procedures is at ismcongregations.yale.edu.
Pine Street Church Dedication
Dan Torpy got some great shots of our Dedication Ceremony for the newly renovated Pine Street Commons on April 26. The program opened with a SoFA teacher, Steve Uliana, singing "Simple Gifts" arr. Copland, and Larry Van Spriell named a number of special people who helped in so many ways throughout this enormous and visionary project. Cathy Compton led a responsive reading:
Leader: As we dedicate the newly renovated Pine Street Commons to a mission of community service and education, we reflect on God's will that we use our time, our talents, our financial gifts, and our actions to love our neighbors. We are grateful for the people who have given all these things that we might celebrate a new center for creativity, learning and growth in Boulder.
Response: We thank all those who have breathed new life into this space.
Leader: We give thanks for the builders, the architect, the design team and capital campaign committee who have invested themselves in the beauty, safety, endurance and utility of this space.
Response: We are humbled by their artistry and expertise.
Leader: We thank the former teachers who dedicated themselves to making this a space for learning. Today we can close our eyes and imagine the many footprints belonging to these teachers and the students they inspired. These impressions travel from these doors into our city, our state, and our world.
Response: May this building continue to help teachers and students find inspiration, wisdom, creativity, and understanding.
Leader: We recognize the current teachers and students and give thanks for the promise they hold to create new pathways for love, laughter and joy.
Response: The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. We celebrate the mysteries that lead us to explore, and the guidance we receive along the way.
Leader: We celebrate all the people who have given time, energy, and money out of generosity or sacrifice to make this dream a reality.
Response: May we all find ways to support the completion of this vision and this dream.
All: May this building be a space for diverse people and ideas to thrive in acceptance and joy.
David and Emily L'Hommedieu performed the song "Forever Young" including the text:
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.
Pastor Bob Ballance, who has been the inspiration and vision behind this project, closed the program with a beautiful blessing, calling for Pine Street Commons to be a place for students to delight in learning and creativity.
COM to CONG Newsletter
Pine Street Church, its band, and music program are supremely excited to announce our second annual "Good Friday Musical Meditation". Last year's inaugural event was a cover performance of Ray LaMontagne album Till the Sun Turns Black. This year we will be performing the album Kid A, by world-renowned British band Radiohead. The performance will take place on Friday, April 3rd at 7:30pm. Admission to this event is free. Donations will be graciously appreciated and will go towards music scholarships at the Off Broadway School of Fine Arts.
The musicians involved in this production are the best that Boulder and the Front Range have to offer. The setting is our gorgeous 90 year old sanctuary, and the moment is just right to gather and experience music together so that we might work to align our hearts and minds towards a more meaningful and intentional existence, seeking betterment of our lives and the world around us.
Released in October of 2000, Radiohead's Kid A has grown from its initially mixed reviews by both critics and fans into a universally-touted iconic album that shares a home on lists of the greatest albums of all time. Starkly contrasting to 1997's much-heralded Ok Computer, Kid A changed the landscape of music as we know it, blurring the lines between styles by incorporating sounds, techniques, and instrumentation from a plethora of seemingly disparate genres. The resulting phenomenon is an album that has taken listeners upwards of a decade to digest, and will surely continue down this path for years to come.
By the band's own admission, the meaning of Radiohead's music is not intended to be dictated to its listener by the band. Instead it stands, as does all great artwork, an opportunity for active experience. The season of Lent, especially Good Friday, which coincides with Passover, has become a time to reflect on deep issues both within ourselves, and the world around us. It is a time to consider our place in the universe, as well as the universe itself. Its a sort of spiritual period of cleansing where we not only discover and give up negative influences in our lives, but when we take up callings that lead to better existence for ourselves as well as our world.
The music and words of Kid A were largely influenced by the band's experiences around the worldwide successes of their previous album Ok Computer. The band was thrust into the modern day global media spotlight and all that comes with it. Kid A now stands as a testament to the destructive force a globalized civilization can wrought, both upon the planet, and the individual. There is truly nary a better time to experience this album than in this deepest season of reflection. On the 15th anniversary of its release, Kid A, perhaps more than ever, is able to give perspective as to how far we've come, or how much further we've fallen away, from the issues that inspired its creation. This experience is an opportunity of which we're passionately moved to be a part.
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