Platform: It’s Not About the Lattes
By Sung Kim
I recently sat down over lunch with a group of young professionals at our church. I asked them two questions. First, I asked, “If you could design a church that would reach your friends, what would it look like?” The answers varied greatly. One person thought the messages should be “deep,” while another thought they should be the length of a TED talk. Someone else wanted a more liturgical and sacramental service, while another wanted a modern and contemporary one.
After almost an hour of going in circles, I asked them the second question: “What was it that drew you here, to Grace Ann Arbor?” The first word out of everybody’s mouth was the same: authenticity. Sure, it’s a buzzword, but for millennials, authenticity in relationships, in preaching, and in worship services is valued more highly than excellence—the buzzword of their parents’ generation. Neither are bad or wrong; they’re just different. (And to be clear, authenticity does not mean a license for poor quality preaching and ministry.)
As we talked, I came to see the many aspects of that authenticity. It shows up in preaching, where these young professionals value passion more than performance, and personal stories more than a three-point outline and a “touching” poem or prefabricated story at the end of the message.
They also talked about our congregation’s unity and diversity. People noticed that “there were other people like me,” yet, at the same time, “there were older people who I could look up to for mentoring.” They appreciated that we aren’t a “homogenous group of white, upper middle-class people” but represent “a diversity of different races, backgrounds, cultures, and political viewpoints.” They also agreed that our approach to doctrine as living and dynamic resonates with them. Instead of approaching every secondary issue as black and white, we constantly encourage our people to be thoughtful and humble in a way that reflects the adage, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
If somebody were to ask me (as many have), “So how do you reach millennials?”, my answer would be, “I have no idea. All I can say is that it’s not about what you do or don’t do; it’s really about who you are.”
Sung Kim is pastor of Grace Ann Arbor (RCA) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Platform” gives RCA members a chance to share their opinions.