Monday, March 15, 2010

Digital Natives II: Trying to answer really hard questions

Dancing Hippie asked me some excellent but difficult questions in the "Digital Natives" post about what a church that moved in a Digital Native direction might look like. Before I start, I want to emphasize that this is not "Chalicechick's Decree of What You Should Do Right This Minute," merely one potential vision for the future.

DH's questions are bolded and set off.

(((But what does a social media integrated congregation mean? What aspects of church life would work in social media?)))

Being a law nerd, the aspects I am most interested in are governance aspects. I've been in a church or two where information seemed to be kept closely guarded and everybody just sort of went along with whatever the board suggested since this meant that they were the only ones who reliably knew what was going on. IMHO, this model is unsustainable in a world where people are used to a more free exchange of information and it isn't a good example of our democratic principles in action.

I don't see why our enhanced abilities to communicate with one another can't take some of the power back away from boards and committees and put it in the hands of the congregation, for example. If anyone who logs in to the member portion of the website can read the information that is given to the board and can vote on things, I think you're going to find a congregation that is more engaged and even makes better decisions.

I attended a congregation for awhile where someone literally told me that new membership ideas were well and good, but Myrtle had been membership chair for X number of years and if she didn't like the new ideas, well, we couldn't go hurting Myrtle's feelings, now could we? (Name changed to protect Myrtle.) I think that's an extreme example, but I think it is really easy for congregations to slip in to patterns like this where new ideas have to get past gatekeepers. If the whole congregation is not just allowed to make suggestions to Myrtle individually and be turned down individually, but allowed to discuss suggestions in a message-board-type area, then when lots of people think something is a good idea, it is more likely to happen, especially if they are allowed to take a vote and make it happen.*

Most of us aren't at our best in lengthy congregational meetings where all communication is verbal. Why not have a week long "meeting" where debates can happen online in a message board format and everybody votes at the end? Or why have the "meeting" once a year at all? Why not address issues as they come up?

TheCSO pointed out that so much of this sounds like an online version of the "town meeting" format that our religious ancestors liked to use. I don't think the early congregationalists had "nominating committees." Are we sure we need them now? Conversely, I don't think anyone would disagree that there are a few areas that might be exceptions. We don't all need to know how much everybody pledges, for example and I have no problem with the church staff being the only ones who know that. HR issues involving staff seem like another good example.

I know a guy with a finance resume that would knock you over who was told he couldn't be nominated to his church's endowment committee because the committee had "too many white males." I will spare you the list of reasons why this is stupid and simply say that if instead of a committee, there were a message board where people could put up ideas and convince other people to vote for the best ones, then he could have participated and likely won people over. The good ideas should be allowed to win, IMHO.

But there are lots of ways that spreading information around can be helpful to the congregation even in places you wouldn't expect. One simple thing my church does already that I think is fabulous is to send out "Joys and Concerns" from the previous week as part of a mass email to the congregation each week. When I am in church and something is announced, unless I whip out my cell phone and note it right then, I'm likely to forget. If you put "Joys and Concerns" in my e-mail box, when I read it I can easily fire off e-mails and facebook messages of congratulation or offering help, send flowers and in other ways reach out to people in a way that can carry the interaction a long way past Sunday morning.

For another example, I know the minister of a very small church that expects her to be in charge of everything. Members of her congregation say all the time "Oh, if you need something, please call" but then she has to call and hear their excuse and then call someone else, etc, etc. My suggestion was that when someone says "call me if you need anything," she should say "can I add you to my e-mail list?"

That way, if she needs an extra sitter for the choir concert or if the secretary is sick and she needs someone to run off and fold the newsletter, she sends out one email to the "Help the minister" list, people who can help respond, and she's done.

Don't know if she has implemented that.

But I think it is a good example of how not every suggestion for using technology has to be a big radical change, though I certainly suggested some big radical changes above.

(((Would a new role for pastors be to follow the tweets of members to get feedback the way a marketing departments follow some tweets?)))

Honestly, I'd say that if your church has a staff membership person, then they should probably have twitter searches already set up so on the rare occasion that someone tweets about the church they at least see it. Wouldn't you want to know what people were saying? I doubt people tweet about churches much, but when they do, would be nice if someone at the church saw that and the way to do it is with automatic searches, not reading every member's twitter feed.

Also, I had a bit of theological snark about a skit my church choir did recently and if I'd had a place to mention it to just the folks from my church, it probably wouldn't have ended up on twitter since I usually don't like to put things on my twitter feed that most of my friends won't understand.

(((I grew up as the son of a pastor and the time I had with my dad was limited enough as it was with him off at meetings and weddings and funerals all the time. How much time would I have had with him if he had to follow fb and twitter all the time in addition to these other traditional roles. Would my current church have to hire a third pastor just to minister to the tweets?))

Katy-the-Wise still does "sermon talkback" at her church. If it works the same way it did at her old church, you have a few minutes to get a cup of coffee, then Katy and interested congregants meet back in the sanctuary for an informal discussion of the sermon. If you have questions about the sermon, if you disagree or if you entirely didn't get it, you can ask the minister and everybody can talk about your question.

Some ministers view this practice as "let's attack the minister time." Some church members (i.e. jerks) try to use it that way. It never really worked with Katy because whatever you were talking about, Katy-the-Wise had thought about it more than you had and could issue an analytical smackdown if one was deserved. I don't just call her that because it sounds cool.**

Her sermon talkbacks ran between half and hour and an hour and I can honestly say that they were more spiritually helpful than anything I have ever done in Unitarian Universalism. I learned SO MUCH and developed SO MUCH spiritually from those conversations. I think back on them all the time and would love to attend a church that still has them because I got so much out of them. Indeed, when someone asks me a hard question on the Chaliceblog, I think of Katy, throw my shoulders back, and start typing. (OK, sometimes I go think about it for awhile. But the throwing shoulders back and typing occurs soon enough.)

Since my impression is that a lot of ministers feel like they are being given the third degree when talkback is done verbally, why not have an online sermon discussion running for a couple of weeks after each sermon? People with varying reactions to the sermon can show up and talk about it and clear up one another's confusions and then the minister can comment as necessary.

Depending on whether the minister wanted to provide more explanation or mostly let people who were on the right track discuss it out amongst themselves, that would take some time, but if the minister had less committee work (see above suggestions) then he/she would have time for that. And I think most ministers would RATHER have theological discussions than do committee work. My goodness, I hope they would.

That said, there are a fair number of ministers already who post their sermons on blogs that allow comments. Though some sermons get responses, Ms. Kitty's in particular seem to get discussion, "online sermon talkbacks" haven't really caught on. But then, we haven't advertised them as such. I think the idea still has potential when introduced to the congregation as a whole.

(((How would any of this make young adults feel there is anything other than RE?)))

By bringing them into decision-making that engages them as adults, by connecting them to other people in the church through discussions of things theological and not that can lead them to find things they have in common with other members, and by making church something you check into for a few minutes once a or twice a day as you're on your laptop in bed or while you're bored at work as opposed to something you do on Sundays then forget about.

(((At our church we have small group ministries aka chalice circles, so I suppose you could have a virtual chalice circle, but that doesn't sound fulfilling to me in the same way as a small group meeting during the week.)))

I certainly don't think we should get rid of in-person interactions like this one. That said, I like online discussions because I often formulate my opinions better in writing and much prefer the "read someone's three paragraphs, think about what they said for awhile as I do something else, write three paragraphs in response" approach to a verbal discussion, at least as far as this sort of thing is concerned. Also, I'm a night law student with a really irregular schedule. I've never seen a small group that was meeting at a time when I was sure I could consistently make it.

Anyway, I think we should have room for both approaches.

Indeed, I think online stuff works best when it is enhancing offline social interaction rather than replacing it. I'd love to see more inter-church online discussions of regular life stuff that could bring people together and help them realize how much they have in common and how much they will have to talk about when they see each other on Sunday.

In a side note, there's an RE class at my church that meets EVERY SPRING that I have wanted to join for THREE YEARS but that has never met on a night that my crazy-scheduled self could make it. If they offered it online, I would sign up in a second. As it is, I likely won't be able to take it until 2012.

(((I'm certainly out of the age group that Wikipedia defines for the natives, but I've also been one of those pioneers who built the technology that the natives live with, so I don't feel like I'm out of the loop, but perhaps I am.))

I was born on third base. You hit the triple. That said, I find this vision of a minimally hierarchical church that is focused on discussion and collaboration invigorating and exciting and very consistent with the way a church run by people who value what we say we value should work and I wanna go. I don't think you're out of the loop, you seem like I smart person to me and if you read this and hate all these possibilities and/or don't think they would work, well I'm just a layperson with no religious training who gave it a shot and goodness knows which one of us is right.

Time may tell, I suppose.

CC


*I'm writing this terrifyingly aware of how lots of UUs often think something is a good idea that Chalicechick considers a bad idea. But I can accept being outvoted. Being unilaterally vetoed by Myrtles is much rougher on me.

** Very early into my UUism career, Katy gave a sermon about the nature of vulgarity, how our notions of it have changed, what it means for us to have vulgar things and what it means to use vulgarity. At sermon talkback, Chalicechick raised her hand and when called on said "Course jocosity catches the crowd."

Katy finished "Shakespeare and I are often low-browed."

I regard that moment as the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

18 comments:

JollyPyrate said...

As a minister, I can't follow everything the congregants of the congregation I serve are doing on Facebook. But I can post, follow-up on some of the direct invitations (some days I receive too many), and weave it into my connections with folks. Twitter and FB are both much easier for me with a tool like HootSuite, that allows me to track feeds and direct feedback, as well as search routinely. I started tweeting after experimenting with a daily inspirational text message, which only really worked for people with unlimited texting. I'd love to know of a congregational board that is using SMS for gathering information to specific questions, since that's a super technology to do that.

Chalicechick said...

I should emphasize that the Minister spending all day on facebook is not what I have in mind.

That said, Facebook and Twitter are a really freaking powerful tools for pastoral care. My husband was in a serious accident a couple of years ago (sufficiently serious that those sneaking in from the waiting room to spy on ICU were immensely relieved when he was seen to both talk reasonably and move his feet) and a terrified me, not knowing what else to do sat in the waiting room tweeting about emergency rooms and asking for thoughts and prayers from anyone who could read the tweet.

I eventually got up the will to call his mother, but was exhausted the very idea of a phone conversation where I simply had to repeat over and over that I didn't know, that he was being well cared for and I would call back when there was news. I talked to both his parents, then I sat down outside the hospital and cried and waited, unable to fathom making another phone call even if there would theoretically be comfort on the other end of the line.

Within an hour, my best friend and fellow youth leader had arrived, summoned mostly by tweeting and a few facebook messages to confirm which hospital he'd been taken to. By morning, I had invitations to lunch, people bringing over food and plenty of offers for hospital visits and distraction for me. Other friends of ours who weren't church members helped an immense amount too, but the church folks had a special sort of natural teamwork that people who have worked together many times before tend to have.

His time in ICU and neurology observation was easily the worst week of my life (and my GPA that semester was my worst of law school as the accident happened in late October and I was never really able to return my attention to my studies), but my friends' ability to find out instantly what had happened and coordinate themselves really make a bad time better.

By the time the minister and the official pastoral care committe called me the next day, we didn't even need them because we had a church community, and an online reflection of that community, that was able to pull themselves together seemingly instantly.

And Facebook really did help.

CC
who DOES have unlimited texts and would be delighted to get an inspirational text message from you if you ever start that back up.

Strange Attractor said...

This message is perfect timing, CC. Our fellowship just had a meeting this weekend to talk about some of these issues and figure out how we want to develop our various media. Incidentally, the biggest challenge seemed to be how to involve both Digital Immigrants and Digital Babushkas. There is great food for thought here. Thanks.

Chalicechick said...

((Incidentally, the biggest challenge seemed to be how to involve both Digital Immigrants and Digital Babushkas. There is great food for thought here))

Given that most digital natives are young enough that they don't often end up on committees with any power (how many twentysomethings are on your church's board or nominating committee or ministerial relations committe?), to my thinking the issue of inclusion cuts both ways.

My least favorite version of this is "The _____ committee was formed without your knowledge and you were never invited to join nor can you join now. They are in charge of ______ issue within our church and we're appalled that you started a discussion of ________ issue on facebook where just anyone in the church could express an opinion on __________ without asking the official __________ committee if it was ok first. How DARE you not include them?"

Sigh. I think people really are capable of saying these things while at the same time not understanding why young people wouldn't want to deal with this crap.

And to me, that is mindblowingly obvious, and to them it is mindblowingly obvious that starting a Facebook discussion on ________ without the ______ committe's permission is blatantly and rudely stepping on their toes.

This is a good example of how Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants/Babushkas sometimes end up speaking an entirely different language when they try to discuss an issue like that.

CC

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, all of it

JollyPyrate said...

Yes, I definitely don't spend all day on FB. I've also found social media to be very powerful pastoral care tools. The one I use most is actually Ravelry, for knitters, crocheters, and weavers.

& one reason I switched to Twitter is that folks who choose to follow me by mobile can still have their inspirational message to their multiverse handheld connector. Meanwhile, those with less comfort/energy can dip in when they like, or check in only with one of my blogs, or the Minister's page on the congregational website.

I also have a collection of photos for use in worship service on Flickr (clipperpreacher). Peter Bowden has started a Flickr pool for UU stock images, too.

Financial considerations are forcing some of these conversations. The congregation I serve now sends out very little paper. Most material is circulated by email, posted to the website, & posted out through FB and Twitter.

Chalicechick, your blog is super. I hope we see more young adults in leadership around UUville.

DairyStateDad said...

Some random reactions...

1) I am very erratic in my digital life these days (as any of the 2-1/2 readers of the DSD blog can see). I think it's important to be up to speed digitally, but not to leave behind even the Babushkas. Because lately, except for my work, I've been practically a Babushka -- even though I got a new laptop for Christmas and thought I would be on FB and my blog nearly all the time now. Hah!.

2) @JollyPyrate: Interesting that you follow congregants on FB at all. A former intern minister last year politely turned down my FB friend invitation, in the name of maintaining boundaries. I understood completely and didn't feel the least bit offended, BTW.

So standards/etiquette on this sort of thing seem to be all over the map.

@CC: A very touching account about the power of digital social networking.

Another thought, for a second comment...

DairyStateDad said...

Also @CC: on the topic of inclusion... This is a complicated issue, and in some ways digital vs. non-digital may be just a sidelight...

Last year DSM & I taught a Junior High class. I'm going to truncate details for all sorts of reasons, but let's just say many aspects of the class were challenging, and at some point some parents (a small minority) were unhappy about certain aspects of it. We had our own challenges, largely w/ kids' behavior.

We certainly didn't handle things ideally and learned a lot the hard way. But it was particularly bothersome to us that none of the complaining parents called us up and spoke directly to us about their issues or concerns. We did initiate some contacts w/ parents and got some feedback, and later on a committee chair talked to us about their concerns, and still later there was a big meeting at which issues were hashed out.

But the point is, the communication about what we were doing or not doing right in their eyes was for a long time behind our backs, and that really damaged our relationship with the program for a time.

Now, FB had nothing to do with that, but the larger issue is the same.

I think when people react we're appalled that you started a discussion of ________ issue on facebook where just anyone in the church could express an opinion on __________ without asking the official __________ committee if it was ok first. it's a perception that there's some hidden agenda at work. FB is just the means.

Now I absolutely acknowledge that the official channels need to be open to input, and often aren't, which is equally a problem. And I'm not saying that it's FB (or Twitter or whatever) that's at fault.

But while it may be framed in one way as Digital Natives v. Immigrants/Babushkas, it might equally be framed as conflicting approaches to complicated group dynamics irrespective of any communications platform.

Chalicechick said...

I can see what you are saying in regards to that situation, that said, in this particular case any "fan" of the church could read and participate in the discussion as long as they checked Facebook. (And in the discussion, I wasn't criticizing the committee, though I suppose someone could have later.)

Now I realize having to be on Facebook isn't easy for some people, but to my thinking complaining about people having a discussion on facebook is pretty petty if you're on the committee that has all the actual power and the people doing the discussing had and have no realistic chance of getting on themselves or actually getting to make a decision.

That does suck about those Junior High parents. I work with senior high and most of the parents have calmed down a bit by then and those that haven't are pretty qick to let us know when there's an issue.

Boy hidey.

CC

DairyStateDad said...

Still another thing...

Using social networking or blast emails to share Joys & Concerns... I like your suggestion, but I'm guessing any church trying to adopt that would have to think long and hard about it procedurally. When our church records its Sunday service each week, it specifically DELETES the J&C portion from the recording to protect privacy.

Chalicechick said...

Wow. My church has done the e-mail thing for several years and as far as I know it has always been fine.

It sounds really flip to say that most people who have privacy concerns about information don't announce that information in front of hundreds of people, but yeah.

If nothing else, it encourages people to keep things their announcements to births, deaths and marriages, all of which are matters of public record anyway.

CC

DairyStateDad said...

On J's & C's on recordings, I asked around about our church's practice of deleting them from recordings. It was instituted because of the expectation that eventually the recordings might be posted to the web in a public area. I think the feeling is that, it's one thing to announce your joy or sorrow to a finite group of people in a congregational setting, when you know who's there (more or less), but another to have them out where they might be heard by any random stranger who surfs over to the church's web site.

I actually think this brings to the fore something that is an intersection of technology and generational differences. It's my sense that many who are accustomed to living out their lives on digital social networks are more comfortable with sharing more about their lives with a wider range of people, regardless of how well they actually know them. I'm not particularly speaking only of callow teenagers who "don't think about" the impact of sharing such intimacies, by the way. And as judgmental as that last sentence is, I'm not applying any kind of value judgment to the behavior I'm speaking of. I do think that there are just vastly different standards/comfort levels with the kind of details one puts on Facebook or in a blog or elsewhere, and that at least some of that tends to fall along generational lines.

Christopher said...

Love this whole thread. Love it. I talk about this stuff constantly with nonprofits here in Toronto and increasingly with congregations and the many UU groups to which I belong. If you follow Tapscott's timeline I'm an immigrant by two years, but I got my first computer when I was seven and have been raised on them ever since, so I think it's okay to maybe say I'm second generation or something.

I specifically appreciate your raising the questions around transparency and accessibility and the ways in which technology has the capacity to enhance both and to break down traditional silos in institutions. Some of the practices we've adopted in organizations here is to move all reports out of a closed loop of committee chair to board liaison to ... and into a 'every committee releases all of it to everybody at the same time', and any member can comment. It made it much clearer for people to be able to see potential strategic linkages, identify things falling through the cracks, and to lessen the barriers that many congregations have around who gets to know what when as it relates to how the congregation is functioning.

One of the generational things that I talk about a lot with nonprofits here is the way in which Millennials (Gen Y, Digital Natives, take your pick) for the most part have no patience whatsoever for positional authority, decision making structures that validate one person's view over another's based on the title they hold. And it comes from what they have experienced in life. Not only have they had everything they ever did validated by parents raised on Spock and eschewing any notion that children should be seen and not heard, but they've also seen mighty institutions toppled by young guys building things in their garages. The traditional music industry undone by Napster in a college dormroom, the multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg creating Facebook to keep track of his friends on campus, the creation of the biggest volunteer project in human history in Wikipedia, and the Kielburger brothers launching Free the Children internationally and raising tens of millions of dollars and opening thousands of schools. A meritocracy of ideas is a principal generational value, and the idea that there are discussions in which they are not permitted to insert their ideas is a fundamental challenge that will often lead them elsewhere. That being said, there is still lots to manage there in terms of practices and learning, but we need to understand and think more about where we're each coming from (which clearly goes both ways).

I think it's important to recognize that closed systems are the antithesis of where free-thinking, social, spiritual progressives are moving. I for one cheer each time the Obama government announces yet another step in their efforts to make all government data available for free, open to analysis and integration. And I'm not even American. It's an invitation to help, and we need more of those.

Christopher said...

Just got the copy in my email and noticed that I really did just list guys there as examples of when young people lead, which is pretty uncool (though perhaps emblematic of the ways women are often marginalized in even minimally tech-related conversations - maybe by guys like me). Danah Boyd, Tara Hunt, Beth Kanter are all leading thinkers and doers in technology and social organization in the age of the network; the many women who created the third wave feminist networks, Code Pink, Manifesta, Feministing, etc; Etsy, Handmade Nation and the folks creating macroeconomy out of microindustries through partnership; Amanda Rose, founder of Twestival - the massive international annual fundraiser coordinated through Twitter.

I wonder how/if gender differences play out in congregational organizing using social networking tools?

anne said...

@Christopher I came here from a UU World link and originally read your comments as being yet another "oh, this generation and it's problems!" comment - what's wrong with them, they don't know how to listen to those in authority! Since that's exactly the kind of comment that has made me draw back from UU circles, my blood boiled a bit.

Rereading that paragraph in context, though, it sounds like you're saying this is a good thing - youth and young adults often feel empowered to share their perspectives. And I agree with that, but I also think we need to remember that not everyone is there, and it is actually often necessary to explicitly state a welcoming attitude and seek out the input of folks who have traditionally been excluded.

I think it's important to watch out for generalizing. Phrases like "Not only have they had everything they ever did validated by parents raised on Spock" usually make me exit a discussion as quickly as possible, because it's so totalizing and so non reflective of my experience and that of many others. My experience in school, especially, often told me that what I thought didn't matter and even if I was right, too bad, because those in power wanted something else and they would get their way. Many of us have had the experience in school, church or family circles of being disempowered. So I think it's critical to actively reach out to folks, and not just assume that young people are so empowered that we'll all automatically speak up. I also worry that such statements feed into the idea that youth and young adults have no respect for the experiences of older people, which I don't think is true, either - many youth and young adults deeply respect people in positions of authority, and may also want to challenge and/or engage with them.

So, anyway, I ultimately think we're on the same page but I thought I'd chip in with my thoughts (since I feel empowered to do so!). Since I'm coming to this blog for the first time and mid-discussion I hope I'm not de-railing the conversation too badly, and sorry if I'm misreading!

Christopher said...

@anne I think you're reading me very correctly. I think these are traits that are to be celebrated and are very much the reason that so many young people do not remain parts of congregations - because the systems are closed, because their voices are not validated or invited in, because their experiences are not incorporated in the community and some of the values they hold are in conflict with sacrosanct traditions in some congregations.

I think it's your specific experience in school, in church and elsewhere that has created the generational response that makes many think of millennials as being self-marginalizing - that they explicitly resist participation in areas where they feel that entrenched patterns invalidate their/our experience and input. Millennials are more likely to form their own businesses, establish new nonprofits, create new communities because of how slow many institutions have been to adapt, to open themselves and instead have remained inflexible or impenetrable.

Fair point about generalizing, though when speaking of 'generational' qualities, they're necessarily generalities. It's never my intention to speak of these as universal features of the generation, that all members of the group exhibit - they're trends identified by researchers amongst a group. Every individual's experience is unique and needs to be respected as such - which is actually another generational feature of millennials in terms of an expectation of greater fluidity and multiplicity of identities, beliefs, and of diversity broadly - a challenge to many who come from more positivistic approaches.

Nor did I mean to suggest that millennials don't respect their elders - in fact they are more closely aligned generally with their grandparents than with their parents on many values. But positional (titular) authority is less respected - the individual may be deeply respected, but it will be for their character, for the work they've done, for their willingness to engage openly, rather than for the title they hold.

Glad you shared!

Christopher said...

@anne I think you're reading me very correctly. I think these are traits that are to be celebrated and are very much the reason that so many young people do not remain parts of congregations - because the systems are closed, because their voices are not validated or invited in, because their experiences are not incorporated in the community and some of the values they hold are in conflict with sacrosanct traditions in some congregations.

I think it's your specific experience in school, in church and elsewhere that has created the generational response that makes many think of millennials as being self-marginalizing - that they explicitly resist participation in areas where they feel that entrenched patterns invalidate their/our experience and input. Millennials are more likely to form their own businesses, establish new nonprofits, create new communities because of how slow many institutions have been to adapt, to open themselves and instead have remained inflexible or impenetrable.

Fair point about generalizing, though when speaking of 'generational' qualities, they're necessarily generalities. It's never my intention to speak of these as universal features of the generation, that all members of the group exhibit - they're trends identified by researchers amongst a group. Every individual's experience is unique and needs to be respected as such - which is actually another generational feature of millennials in terms of an expectation of greater fluidity and multiplicity of identities, beliefs, and of diversity broadly - a challenge to many who come from more positivistic approaches.

Nor did I mean to suggest that millennials don't respect their elders - in fact they are more closely aligned generally with their grandparents than with their parents on many values. But positional (titular) authority is less respected - the individual may be deeply respected, but it will be for their character, for the work they've done, for their willingness to engage openly, rather than for the title they hold.

Glad you shared!

Christopher said...

@anne I think you're reading me very correctly. I think these are traits that are to be celebrated and are very much the reason that so many young people do not remain parts of congregations - because the systems are closed, because their voices are not validated or invited in, because their experiences are not incorporated in the community and some of the values they hold are in conflict with sacrosanct traditions in some congregations.

I think it's your specific experience in school, in church and elsewhere that has created the generational response that makes many think of millennials as being self-marginalizing - that they explicitly resist participation in areas where they feel that entrenched patterns invalidate their/our experience and input. Millennials are more likely to form their own businesses, establish new nonprofits, create new communities because of how slow many institutions have been to adapt, to open themselves and instead have remained inflexible or impenetrable.

Fair point about generalizing, though when speaking of 'generational' qualities, they're necessarily generalities. It's never my intention to speak of these as universal features of the generation, that all members of the group exhibit - they're trends identified by researchers amongst a group. Every individual's experience is unique and needs to be respected as such - which is actually another generational feature of millennials in terms of an expectation of greater fluidity and multiplicity of identities, beliefs, and of diversity broadly - a challenge to many who come from more positivistic approaches.

Nor did I mean to suggest that millennials don't respect their elders - in fact they are more closely aligned generally with their grandparents than with their parents on many values. But positional (titular) authority is less respected - the individual may be deeply respected, but it will be for their character, for the work they've done, for their willingness to engage openly, rather than for the title they hold.

Glad you shared!