Tech-Wise Family: 1&2. Choosing Character & Shaping Space

The three key decisions of a tech-wise family is wether:

  1. We develop wisdom and courage together as family.
  2. We want to create more than we consume.
  3. We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest.

1. Choosing Character

1. We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.

We need to understand what makes technology so different from any previous human invention. We also need to understand what family is for, which is something radically ancient and in grave danger of being forgotten.

What is Family for?

I want to suggest a pretty radical idea about what family is for. Family is about the forming of persons. Family shapes us in countless ways. Family helps form us into persons who have acquired wisdom and courage.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion” – Proverbs 18:2 -which also sounds a lot like social media.

All the really important things we do as families involve developing wisdom. You can’t search for wisdom -at least, not online. And it’s as rare and precious as ever- maybe, given how complex our lives have become, rarer and more precious than before.

The Faithful, Scary Thing to Do

We need the conviction and character to act. And that is what courage is about. And even though it’s incredibly hard simply to know what we should do, it’s even harder to actually act on what we know we should do.

The way of wisdom has been clear: stay committed, stay faithful, stay hopeful.

We need people who love us -who are unreservedly and unconditionally committed to us, our flourishing, and our growth no matter what we do, and who are so committed to us that they won’t let us stay the way we are.

Family, for almost all of us, is the setting where we are known and cared for in the fullest and longest-lasting sense.

The First Family

It’s only recently, and in a small corner of the world, that “family” has primarily meant a father, a mother, and their biological children living together in a “single-family” home. According to the US Census Bureau it describes less than 20 percent of US households as of 2012.

“…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” Matthew 12:48-50. The first family for everyone who wants wisdom and courage in the way of Jesus is the church. The church is the place we learn to become the persons we were meant to be.

But if the church is to be our first family, it cannot just be a friendly, weekly gathering. The first Christians met in homes, and those homes were not single-family dwellings but Greaco-Roman “households” that often included several generations as well as uncles and aunts, clients, and indentured servants of the “paterfamilias”. The church too was a household -a gathering of related and unrelated persons all bound together by grace and the pursuit of holiness. It is important to notice that the first Christians had a multi-generational church, a church for the whole family together, not separated by different age groups. 

If our families are to be all that they are meant to be -schools of wisdom and courage- they will have to become more like the church, households where we are actively formed into something more than our culture would ask us to be. And if our churches are to be all they are meant to be, they will have to become more like family -household-like contexts of daily life where we are all nurtured and developed into the persons we are meant to be and can become.

We’ve always needed community wider than the solitary, nuclear family to thrive, and we surely need it now.

Hollow Fruit

Without a doubt, compared to human beings just one century ago, we are more globally connected, better informed about many aspects of the world, in certain respects more productive, and -thanks to GPS and Google Maps- certainly less lost. But are we more patient, kind, forgiving, fearless, committed, creative than they were? And if we are, how much credit should technology receive?

In countless ways our lives are easier than our grandparents’. But in what really matters -for example, wisdom and courage- it seems very hard to argue that our lives are overall better.

Does technology make me the kind of human being who could contribute something of lasting value to my family, my neighbors, my society, and our broken world?

Technology is good at serving human beings. It does almost nothing to actually form human beings.

Anything that offers easy everywhere does nothing (well, almost nothing) to actually form human capacities.

In the most intimate setting of the household, where the deepest human work of our lives is meant to take place, technology distracts and displaces us far too ofter, undermining the real work of becoming persons of wisdom and courage.

Will this help me become less foolish and more wise? Will this help me become less fearful and more courageous?

We will have to teach our children, from early on, that we are not here as parents to make their lives easier but to make them better. We will tell them -and show them- that noting matters more to our family than creating a home where all of us can be known, loved, and called to grow. 

2. Shaping Space

WE WANT TO CREATE MORE THAN WE CONSUME. SO WE FILL THE CENTER OF OUR HOME WITH THINGS THAT REWARD SKILL AND ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT.

 

Fill the center of your life together –the literal center, the heart of your home, the place where you spend the most time together- with the things that reward creativity, relationship, and engagement. Push technology and cheap thrills to the edges; move deeper and more lasting things to the core.

Homes still need a center, and the best things to put in the center of our homes are engaging things –things that require attention, reward skill, and draw us together the way the hearth once did.

Priceless Things

If you do only one thing in response to this blog series, I urge you to make it this: Find the room where your family spends the most time and ruthlessly eliminate the things that ask little of you and develop little in you. Move the TV to a less central location –and ideally a less comfortable one. And begin filling the space that is left over with opportunities for creativity and skill, beauty and risk.

This is the central nudge of the tech-wise life: to make the place where we spend the most time the place where easy everywhere is hardest to find. This simple nudge, all by itself, is a powerful antidote to consumer culture, the way of life that finds satisfaction mostly in enjoying what other people have made.

A single pencil can produce more “colors” of gray and black than the most high-tech screen can reproduce.

For a child’s creative development, the inexpensive, deep, organic thing is far better than the expensive, broad, electronic thing.

In the center, put the things that both adults and children will find endlessly engaging, demanding, and delightful.

The Tech-Wise Family

Over the next few weeks we are going to be discussing a few technology tips on Tuesdays. I recently read The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch and thought it well suited for the modern family. It can be a daily guide to navigate our world that has become enmeshed with technology.

Here are some introductory remarks on the proper place of technology.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love.

Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are part of and responsible for stewarding.

Technology is in its proper place only when we use it with intention and care.

A new approach to technology

A new or better approach to technology involves radically recommitting ourselves to what family is about – what real life is about. Our homes aren’t meant to be just refueling stations, places where we and our devices rest briefly, top up our charge, and then go back to frantic activity. They are meant to be places where the very best of life happens.

We are continually being nudges by our devices toward a set of choices. The question is whether those choices are leading us to the life we actually want. I want a life of conversation and friendship, not distraction and entertainment; but every day, many times a day I’m nudged in the wrong direction. One key part of the art of living faithfully with technology is setting up better nudges for ourselves.

Nudges will never, on their own, build the wisdom and courage we need -partly because we often can’t control our environment, not matter how much we’d like to. We need to change something inside of us as well: to develop the strength to make good choices even when everything around us is nudging, or pushing, us in the wrong direction. And for that we need disciplines.

Spiritual disciplines

The central disciplines of the spiritual life, as taught by generations of Christian saints, have stayed the same for twenty centuries: solitude, silence, fasting.

The discipline of Sabbath, for example, doesn’t just help us take one day a week to enjoy deep and restorative rest; it helps us make choices the rest of the week to avoid anxiety and pride. The most powerful choices we will make in our lives are not about specific decisions but about patterns of life.

Because technology is devoted primarily to making our lives easier, it discourages us from disciplines.

So here’s the plan

The first and deepest is to choose character -to make the mission of our family, for children and adults alike, the cultivation of wisdom and courage.

The second is to shape space -to make choices about the place where we live that put the development of character and creativity at the heart of our home.

And the third is to structure time -to build rhythms into our lives, on a daily, weekly, and annual basis, that make it possible for us to get to know one another, God, and our world in deeper and deeper ways.

 

Tech-Wise Family: 1&2. Choosing Character & Shaping Space

Tech-Wise Family: 3&4. Structuring Time & Waking and Sleeping

Tech Wise Family: 5&6. Learning and Working & The Good News about Boredom

Tech Wise Family: 7&8. The Deep End of the (Car) Pool & Naked and Unashamed

Tech Wise Family: 9&10. Why Singing Matters & In Sickness and in Health

Making Space for Millennials

Introduction

The Church needs Millennials to continue Christ’s mission of redemption, restoration and reconciliation in the world. And Millennials need communion with Christ and his Body to bring wholeness and meaning to their fractured, frenzied lives.

Four design areas are critical for making space for Millennials: culture, ministry, leadership and facilities.

In making space for Millennials the question should be asked: How can we create transformational space for and with Millennials? 

There are five major reasons Millennials stay connected to a Christian community:

  • Cultural discernment
  • Life-shaping relationships
  • A firsthand experience of Jesus
  • Reverse mentoring
  • Vocational discipleship

Culture

Culture is a reflection of worldview: the values, assumptions and allegiances shared among a group. Watershed cultural shifts taking place as Millennials emerge into adulthood are significantly changing their worldview from the perspective shared by older generations. These changes can be broadly categorized in terms of access, alienation and authority.

Instant, almost unlimited access – which Millennials have had since they began their journey into adulthood – has shaped how they learn, the ways they relate to and interact with the world, and their expectations for church and Christianity.

Millennials have seen corruption at all levels of leadership in almost every type of institution.

Modularity

In a modular world, everything can be taken apart and reassembled in a new pattern. The top down, highly organized studio system has given way to a freelance system. This cultural expression is modularity, and it is the new way our lives – from work to education to relationships – are organized.

What does this mean for the community of faith?

First, it means people’s needs are changing.

Second, if modularity is changing what people need from churches, it is also changing how people engage with churches. As in the realms of family and work, people are piecing together “church” according to their preferences and experiences.

In our modular world, we can get great Bible teaching from a John Piper or Beth Moore podcast, fellowship on Facebook or Skype, an opportunity to serve at the crisis pregnancy center and worship on the I Heart Radio app.

The challenge for faith communities is to help young adults identify what pieces of “church” are inadequate, misshapen or missing in their modular lives and then help them rebuild or fill the gaps.

The calling is not to compete with the other pieces but to make space to help Millennials make sense of them all.

Home, Family & Work

The church has a role to play as a welcoming, stabilizing community for those who are struggling to find their place to belong.

Many Millennials have an idyllic concept of “home”, but the reality is that they are far from it.

  • geographically
  • socially
  • culturally
  • spiritually

While a traditional view of family stil makes a strong showing. the cultural expression of friends as de facto family is as popular as the 90’s sitcom.

In God’s family, teens and young adults are our younger siblings and deserve a place at the family table – and not the little kids table, either! Too ofter we treat young people as troublesome children, rather than as heirs with us of God’s glory (see Romans 8:17).

The Christian community can cast a vision for becoming a wife or husband, mother or father, and help young adults connect that vision to their fragmented lives.

Millennials are drawn to the great outdoors. How could you adapt your communal space to help young adults reconnect “work” with the rest of life?

Cross-cultural Communication

If your standard Bible-teaching method is a 30-45 minute sermon delivered once a week by one leader on a stage at the front of your worship space, you may find it difficult not only to pass on rich Bible knowledge but merely to hold Millennials attention.

Few Millennials need more information, from churches or anyone else. They have access to more knowledge than any generation in history. What they need is wisdom – spiritual understanding that allows them to put knowledge into practice.

Is your community of faith equipping Millennials to be wise about digital tools?

Many Millennials are seeking a more holistic, cohesive approach to tech – an approach that is fully integrated with the Christian understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image.

Wisdom, guided by God’s Spirit, is what allows us to connect right attitude with right action. But teaching young disciples what to think and what to do will not impart wisdom. We must train them (and relearn for ourselves) how to think and act like Jesus – to discern the right way to go and then to get going.

Kingdom culture

Not Jewish culture. Not Gentile culture. Kingdom culture.

Paul wrote: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In a similar way, the Jesus community today is called to transcend, with the Spirit’s help, our generational values, allegiances and assumptions and adopt a shared Kingdom culture.

Ministry

When we conceive of our faith community as a religious services industry, even unconsciously, we understand our difficulty appealing to Millennials as a failure to create brand loyalty – a failure whose solution is a better product and/or better marketing.

If a ministry is successful, we assume, the people whom we serve will gradually become more deeply involved (that is, more loyal to our brand). For instance, if 200 children from the neighborhood attend Vacation Bible School but none of the kids or their parents comes to a church service after VBS is done, we would question whether VBS is an effective ministry. And it’s a valid question – we should assess our ministry effectiveness early and often.

Should the goal of our programs and ministries always be more people actively engaged in our programs and ministries? Is our mission to expand market share and brand loyalty?

Like it or not, consumer culture has shaped what people expect of church.

Millennials are hyperaware and deeply suspicious of the intersection of church and consumer culture.

Closed Doors

What do Millennials think about church? Why have so many closed the door on church involvement? Why, even among those who grew up in church, have nearly six in ten dropped out at some point? Why have more than half been absent from church for the past six months? Why do three in ten Millennials say church is not at all important while an additional four in ten feel ambivalent, saying church is either somewhat important of somewhat not important?

Among those who say church is not important, most are split between two reasons: Two in five say church isn’t important because they can find God elsewhere (39%), and one-third say it’s because church is not personally relevant to them (35%). One in three simply find church boring (31%) and one in five day it feels like God is missing from church (20%). Only 8% say they don’t attend because church is “out of date”, undercutting the notion that all we need to do for Millennials is to make church “cooler”.

A significant number of young adults perceive a lack of relational generosity within the Christian community. 52% of respondents view present-day Christianity as aggressive and critical.

Open Windows

What do Millennials find valuable in church? Their answers can give us insight for what to prioritize in ministry and with Millennials.

A plurality say they attend church to be closer to God (44%) and nearly three in ten go to learn more about God (27%). Getting outside the humdrum of their everyday lives to experience transcendence – in worship, in prayer, in teaching – is a key desire for many Millennials when it comes to church.

Millennials are, on the whole, skeptical about the role churches play in society. This is the closed door. But their hope for the role churches could play? That is an open window.

Respect and Respond

There is one universal when it comes to social status: The person of higher status sets the terms of the relationship, and the person of lower status respects and responds to the boundaries set by the higher-status person.

As a rule, Millennials are not terribly status-conscious, but they are keenly aware that information is power.

The only piece of information a sizable majority of Millennials is comfortable sharing with your church is their first name (82%). Only half are willing to give their last names (53%). Just one-third are comfortable sharing their email address (33%).

Only one in five Millennials are comfortable handing over their physical address (19%), and even fewer their phone number (12%). A mere 6% are willing to grant you access on social media, such as friending on Facebook or following on Twitter or Instagram.

When Millennials visit your faith community, are they welcomed and respected, or harassed and put on the spot? Are they cornered into conversation or physical contact? Are they peppered with requests for personal information? Or are they free to set the boundaries of the relationship, as they feel comfortable?

Life-shaping Relationships

If Jesus’ discipling style is any indication, consistent, deepening friendship over a long period of time and through life’s hills and valleys is an (if not the) essential element of lasting spiritual formation within the community of faith.

Are friendships flourishing that can sustain younger and older adults during seasons of spiritual dryness? Do people of all generations serve together, blessing their community with God’s abundant grace and unconditional love?

Two-thirds of U.S. adults agree strongly or somewhat that Christians should play a
strong role in alleviating poverty (66%). The proportion of practicing Christians under 40 who agree is even higher: nearly nine in 10 (86%).

Millennials have a reputation for being concerned about social justice, even though their record as effective, long-haul activists is spotty thus far. They share an expectation that communities of faith should lead the charge on justice issues like poverty. And when a church’s resources are channeled inward instead of outward, they don’t hesitate to criticize.

To Millennials, sacrificial generosity is non-negotiable when it comes to communities that claim to follow Jesus.
There is an aspirational element involved in this high standard—and isn’t that a good thing? Many in the younger generation express a desire to make the world a better place. Their desire is a faint echo of God’s intention to remake the heavens and the earth into a whole, healed place where he will dwell forever with his people (see Rev. 2:1-5). What would it look like for your church to mentor Millennials to live in the new creation? If young adults aspire to be sacrificially generous but don’t know how, their mentoring friendships should incorporate clear teaching on and rigorous practice of the Christian virtue of charity.

More of Jesus

The fact remains that eight out of ten young adults say growing to or learning about God are the two most important reasons to attend church.

Leadership

There are four factors that emerge as essential to developing the next generation of spiritual leaders:

  • authenticity
  • significance
  • reverse mentoring
  • vocational discipleship

Authenticity

What does it look like to “be authentic”?

It means being true to who you are. Don’t represent yourself as something you’re not.

Many of the institutions previous generations respected as pillars of a healthy society have been disgraced by scandals during Millennials’ formative years. Corruption has been exposed within trusted institutions like government, big corporations, national sports teams and organized religion. From President Clinton to Lance Armstrong, from Tiger Woods to the Catholic church, from the NSA to Martha Stewart, Millennials have plenty of reasons to be skeptical.

Young adults aren’t looking for perfect leaders. What they are looking for is leaders willing to admit they’re not perfect. Hypocrisy is one of the biggest criticisms Millennials have of Christians. A full two-thirds of Millennials believe American churchgoers are a lot or somewhat hypocritical.

Instead, lead from your strengths and be honest about your weaknesses.

Significance

Millennials want to make an impact. Barna research for 20 and Something shows that Millennials want passion for their job (42%) even more than a job that helps them become financially secure (34%) or that provides enough money to enjoy life (24%).

As a generation, they have an undeserved reputation for a lack of loyalty. As a rule, however, this is inaccurate. While it’s true that Millennials do not generally demonstrate loyalty to organizations or institutions, most are extremely loyal to causes and people.

Reverse Mentoring

They’re not interested in earning their way to the top so much as they want to put their gifts and skills to work for the local church in the present—not future—tense.

More than six in 10 Millennials like that they know more about technology than older adults. And, the truth is, the church needs the next generation’s help to navigate digital terrains. Aside from a fluency in technology, you might look to your Millennials to “mentor” you in the following areas:

  • Global perspective
  • Sustainability ideas
  • Social concern
  • Optimism
  • Entrepreneurial spirit

Vocational Discipleship

Nearly half of Millennials (48%) think God is calling them to a different work, but haven’t yet been willing to make the change.

This is where vocational discipleship comes in. Because Millennials are so concerned about the significance of what they do, older Christians who are also established professionals or tradespeople can help them

  • 1) identify their life’s work, and
  • 2) help them connect it to their identity as a Christian.

More than one-third of Christian Millennials (37%) do not have an older mentor who
gives them advice about work. Almost two-thirds of all churched adults (63%) say that, in the past three years, they have not received any teachings or information that helped shape or challenge their views on work and career.

Helping young adults connect the dots between faith and work makes a difference to their lifelong pursuit of Jesus.

Working and Leading Together

In the not-too-distant past, the most common method of career training was apprenticeship. An unskilled worker who showed promise was apprenticed to a master craftsperson, training under his or her guidance until the apprentice could carry out first the basic and, eventually, the highly skilled aspects of the craft. Even from the very beginning, although she didn’t yet have the knowledge or skill to work on her own, the apprentice was right in the thick of it, in the shop alongside the master and other apprentices of varying skill levels, learning the rhythms of the craft and offering her brute strength and boundless enthusiasm to the shop’s success.

Facilities

What is your favorite place to connect with God? To connect with others? How about the best place to spend time in personal reflection?

Most of our modern churches have excellent areas set aside for corporate worship, group learning and community-building. But they leave something to be desired when it comes to personal reflection and prayer.

Overall, the “un-churchy” atmosphere of the space, which had more of a corporate vibe than a holy feeling, and the absence of Christian symbols failed to suggest transcendence.

First, cathedral-style churches seem to Millennials like fine china compared to the everyday dishware of the modern churches.

Second, we talked with the field groups about Starbucks versus the independent coffee shop, and many participants agreed that, while they might aspire to the ambiance, community and authenticity of the indie coffee house, they usually find themselves at Starbucks.

Visual Clarity

On the whole, Millennials have a strong preference for unambiguous visual clarity. Practically speaking, field group participants expressed appreciation for clear signage and directions for how and where to find information. More philosophically, Millennials want to be able to answer the questions “Where am I?” and “What’s expected of me?” by looking for cues in their surroundings. Cathedrals and traditional churches have such cues in spades, yet modern churches are often designed expressly to be ambiguous.

Millennials want a church to be open and honest about what it is and about what it is trying to accomplish.

Religious iconography connects people to the traditions and history of Christianity.

Respite

Our churches are places of action, not places of rest; spaces to do rather than spaces to be. The activities, of course, are designed to connect people with God and each other—and some Millennials hope for that, too—but many just want an opportunity to explore spiritual life on their own terms, free to decide for themselves when to stay on the edges of a church experience and when to fully enter in.

Is it a wonder we see an uptick in Millennials seeking out liturgical forms of worship? Or that Millennials who know about Lent are more likely than their parents to practice it?

Many Millennials connect their desire for peace directly to their expectations or hopes for church.

Your church. It it a place of energy and activity? Where do Millennials go to experience Jesus’s invitation, “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”?

Nature

Our findings reveal two core questions churches should ask about their facilities.

  • First, how do we bring the outside in?
  • Second, how do we bring the inside out?

Instead of using landscaping simply as a frame for the building, could we use it as a legitimate ministry space – a sacred place in its own right?

Building for the Whole Body

Again and again, we have circled back to five reasons Millennials stay connected to a faith community: cultural discernment, mentoring, vocational discipleship and life-shaping relationships with God and other people.

There is no cookie-cutter, mass-production solution for welcoming Millennials to your
space, but there are questions your community can keep in mind as you build to include the whole church body:

  • How do our facilities present visual cues? Can people easily answer the questions “Where am I?” and “What is expected of me?”
  • How do our facilities offer respite from the outside world? Can people find a place of peace that is accessible and comfortable?
  • How do our facilities connect to Christian history and traditions? What symbols or design elements evoke a sense of the sacred and tell the story of God’s actions in the world?
  • How do our facilities integrate elements of nature? How can we bring the outside in and take the inside out?

Cultural discernment, intergenerational friendships, reverse mentoring, vocational discipleship, and an experience of and connection with Jesus are five reasons Millennials go to and stay in church. How well do your facilities, inside and out, allow you to facilitate these important outcomes?

 

For more information feel free to go and buy the book Making Space for Millennials from the Barna Institute at https://resources.barna.org/products/making-space-for-millennials