One of the first books I read when I started doing some part-time study at Durham University three years ago was Don Tapscott's Grown up digital (New York: McGraw Hill, 2009). For some reason I keep coming back to it. Perhaps that's because, like some Old Testament prophet, he seems to be bellowing at the cloth-eared people of God, about something that should be like... DUH!
And that's ironic, because Tapscott, as far as I know, isn't all that interested in the church. He engaged on a $4m research project, ‘The Net Generation: a Strategic Investigation’, with over seven thousand 'net geners' (approximately 12-30 year olds), and comparative samples of those aged 30-41 and 42-62, in twelve countries, including the
I realise that the church, called to be counter cultural, shouldn't always pander to the wants and desires of the predominant culture. If it did we would have pews full of Christians singing cheesy Victorian hymns, separating church life from real life and having very convoluted and formal ways of making decisions. Actually, thinking about it....
But what the church can do, is take the hopes and desires of young adults seriously. Of course, this may not be for you. The last thing on your Christmas list is a church council full of 27 year old rebels. So if you want to make sure you keep young adults well away, simply apply these eight principles.
- Don't be tempted to offer variety. Young adults value freedom and freedom of choice, so beware of their calls for a range of worship styles and gatherings and opportunities. They are trying to trick you into consumerism.
- Value your tradition above all else. After all it has been round for a long time and has never changed, and young adults are always wanting to customise things and make them their own. Look at the way they mess with their 'smart phones'.
- Preach and teach for all you are worth, but don't encourage disagreement or questioning. You are not there to have a chat. You are there to pass on the undiluted word of God. But if you are not careful young adults will be demanding collaboration, because they enjoy conversations not lectures.
- Make sure you stay tight-lipped about the inner workings of your church. They don't need to know what goes on behind the scenes. They are probably not going to be that interested. The trouble is they are always banging on about scrutiny and its importance at work, in politics and, before you know it, in church.
- Say one thing in church, do another out of church. OK, we know this may not always be the ideal way to behave, but it's often for the best. The annoying thing is that young adults value integrity. They smell double standards a mile off and won't hesitate to point them out to you. You don't need this.
- Take church life very seriously. Goes with out saying really. Young adults who desire fun, at work, school and in their private life, can't expect to have that in church too.
- Take your time. The church has been here for 2000 years and isn't disappearing tomorrow. Don't be rushed into making decisions. Make sure you have complex command and control structures that only you understand. They will have to get used to it, even if young adults value speed as normative.
- Avoid experimentation at all costs. You know this makes sense. It always leads to trouble. Young adults see innovation as a normal part of life. They have grown up with it. Beware this snare of the devil.
So thank you Mr Tapscott for saving the church from the future.