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What Young People Want from the Church – Jenna Morrison

Get real

In the classic novel The Brothers Karamazov, Father Zossima offers those who live with him this piece of wisdom. "Every one of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth. ... Only through that knowledge, our heart grows soft with infinite, universal, inexhaustible love. Then every one of you will have the power to wash away the sins of the world with your tears."

The church could use hundreds of churchy buzzwords in thousands of pages to describe the things that young adults want from the church. Perhaps, though, the words of Father Zossima ring truest. Each of us, especially the church, has a real responsibility to real people to demonstrate the real love of God in such a way that lives are transformed as an embodied Christ wipes away our sins.

For young adults, buzzwords and flashy worship venues don't cut it. To them, they seem contrived, superfluous and judgmental. There are too many masks being worn and not enough cards on the table. It doesn't seem trendy to be honest; yet, that's what we want.

Young adults want the church to be real. We want the church to acknowledge the real hurt and suffering in the world, and the real ways that it and we have been the impetus of that hurt and suffering. We believe that we have a real responsibility to the world, not just to see that real hurt and suffering, but to name it, speak to it and not stop there. We desperately want to get right in the middle of it and sit down for a while.

We want the church to help us find ways to effect real and tangible change from the middle of the mess through real relationships in real community with real people who live and work in our neighborhoods. We want real experiences of God in a safe place where our hearts matter more than our doctrine, surrounded by people who really care about us and the rest of the world.

The Rev. Jenna Morrison, 27, is associate pastor at First United Methodist Church Rockwall (Texas). She is a 2014 graduate of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.