I’m a “stealth greeter” in my home congregation. I go up to newcomers after a service and strike up a conversation about what brought them to church that day, and then I listen. What are they looking for? Community, meaning, direction and connection to a purpose greater than themselves.
Most of our congregations are pretty good at the first two. We provide community in our social events and meaning in the Sunday worship service. I think it’s because community and meaning are what our older adults are looking for and our older adults run the show and can make sure those are happening.
But the young adults that I talk to are looking for direction and connection to a purpose greater than themselves. A recent article in the Atlantic starts out telling the story of the young adult ramblings of our venerable Henry David Thoreau and how today’s millennials need to find their way into adulthood, not with predetermined markers (job, marriage, house, children) but within their sense of self.
Congregational leaders who want to create a culture that is welcoming to young adult seekers are facing the adaptive challenge of being a community that not only serves the existing members, but also provides spiritual hospitality. This kind of hospitality is based on the Platinum Rule–an intercultural version of the Golden Rule–of doing unto others what they would have done for themselves.
My congregation uses monthly themes and has different ways for people to connect and engage with them. We also strive to offer life-stage groups (single young adult, parents of young children, parents of adolescents, retiree) and other kinds of groups to help people connect and find their own direction. As I share these concrete possibilities with the visitor, I can see their delight as they see the possibility of this becoming their spiritual home.
What might your congregation do to provide spiritual hospitality?
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Congregational Life Consultant