Little Calumet Christian Fellowship is the first Mennonite church in North America to intentionally form a Generation X congregation with pastoral leadership from within that generation. As Anabaptists, we have many of the same concerns as other young people. The Mennonite church upholds the needs of the poor. We advocate racial and gender equality, as well as environmental stewardship. We are also staunch advocates of nonviolence and reconciliation. These characteristics have been crucial in overcoming cynicism, which is the chief obstacle we have faced in building our community.
As pastor and church-planter of this multicultural, urban congregation, I have learned some valuable lessons about ministering to people of my generation. There are four key areas that need re-engineering to be fruitful in reaching my generation: leadership, worship, preaching, and discipleship.
Leadership. We are happy that the church of the baby boomers has a heart for young people. We have a lot of gifts to bring to the table. However, new wine requires new wineskins. By elevating aspiring Gen Xers to positions of leadership, the church will help members of our generation mature into responsible adulthood and use our gifts and resources to share the love and grace of Christ to a broken world.
Worship is the church's most important tool for evangelism and for keeping Gen Xers as active participants in the corporate body. In our church we have received very positive responses to the use of alternative Christian music during our worship. Perhaps this is because so many of us identify with the rage and melancholy present in today's rock music. As we worship to music by groups such as Jars of Clay and Seven Day Jesus, we encourage personal and expressive participation from the congregation. We also are not afraid to use applicable secular music that speaks to us theologically and spiritually.
Preaching is very important to us. At Little Calumet, we tackle lifestyle issues and current events from a biblical perspective, followed by a question-and-answer period. We are not afraid to hit the hard issues. Sex, dating, marriage, parenting, gender equality, consumerism, homosexuality, and environmental issues resonate well as topics for us. My peers hunger for answers, direction, and balance concerning difficult real-life issues. We are not turned off by the idea of God or organized religion as much as we are by the hypocrisy with which the church has often responded to these hard issues. Many of us are desperately searching for that which is real and lasting.
Discipleship is crucial to young people. Many of us grew up in broken and dysfunctional families, so we found our stability within friendships. The values of relationships go to the core of who we are. It is not enough just to preach and teach Christ to us. We need Christ's love modeled for us. Small groups and accountability are important. We respond best to those who show concern for our holistic well-being.
To the young people of my broken generation, Jesus says, "My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in your weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). As a pastor, my life's passion is to invite others into the place of my brokenness—and at the same time, I reach out to meet them in their brokenness. Despite our uncertainty, we can find salvation together.
Rocky Kidd was pastor and church-planter of Little Calumet Christian Fellowship in Lake County, Indiana, near Chicago, when this article appeared.