A gift horse

In an excellent post on the new Congregational Consulting blog, John Wimberly explodes several myths about the possibilities for congregational growth among the Millennial generation (ages 18-33). He begins by exposing an obvious falsehood with some simple arithmetic:

“So we have 80 million people between the ages of 18-33, 86% of whom say they believe in God, and we are bemoaning the future of our congregations? In Wisconsin, where I grew up, that is called ‘looking a gift horse in the mouth.’ It might also be called an excessive lack of imagination regarding the possibilities inherent within a generation of young adults who poll as optimistic about the future of our nation, don’t want to engage in generational warfare, and love diversity.”

I agree with him. I’ve never seen such a large number of pleasant, interesting newcomers as I’ve seen coming to our UU congregation in the past few years, including quite a few people younger than 35. When a gift horse like that appears on Sunday morning, I’m not going to say, “Could you please open your mouth so I can look for the rise of the ‘nones’?” — I’m going to say, “Welcome, glad you came, you’ll like it here!”

Wimberly goes on to explode other myths, such as the myth that the Millennial generation resists traditional worship and classical music, and the myth that Millennials spend all their time online so they won’t come to face-to-face congregations. But instead of reading my summary, you can go read the post yourself by clicking here.

4 thoughts on “A gift horse”

  1. I suppose you knew I would comment on this one, Dan. Anyway — congregational issues aside, there are good reasons to look at gift horse (a real horse) in the mouth. You can tell approximately how old the horse is, whether his teeth have been “floated” or not on a regular basis, if he (or she) has uneven wear (which makes for eating problems), if the horse’s mouth is sore (from ill-fitting bits, or harsh handling), etc. Race horses will have tattoos on their upper lips which will tell you exactly who they are, and from that you can trace lineage, racing records if any, and more.

    All that said — a horse, even a gift horse, is a living being, and comes with the rewards and responsibilities, as well as costs of caring for a living being. If you look in the horse’s mouth (and, I would add, his feet, and legs, and all the rest of him), you have a good sense what you’re getting into. I don’t know about congregations, but I do know that a little knowledge is a useful thing. At least when it comes to horses.

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