Twenty somethings Change the World

Baby boomers can view the desires of many twenty-somethings to “change the world” through the condescending lens of nostalgia. Isn’t this the sixties all over again?” we smile to ourselves.

No it is not! The twenty-somethings of today are not like many of us boomers were when we were twenty and social revolution was more the rhetoric of a lifestyle and proclamation of what others should do.

The October 2010 edition of Fast Company highlights the work of several young designers who seek to change the world in very practical and design-savvy ways. The scope of interests vary from Michael Murphy’s work for Butaro Hospital in Rwanda to Candy Chang’s urban work in New Orleans. Those of us who work in the United Church find some resonance in her challenge: “There’s a lot of talk about participatory planning but no vision to excite people to participate.” Emily Pilloton, 28, works for free on Project H in North Carolina teaching design and shop classes as a vehicle for community development. The list extends well beyond the few profiles in the magazine.

The commitment, energy and creativity of many twenty-somethings to a different world would seem to make them natural partners for a church that, at our best, believes God is at work bringing about a new world. Although the United Church does have a few notable exceptions, like Wade Lifton and others, those partnership are few.

The observation makes me both sad and curious.

Part of the reason for the disconnect we have well documented in Emerging Spirit research – the view of the church as toxic, judgmental, arrogant, unwilling to listen, etc. But I do not yet despair that all the doors are closed. If we can find a way to identify and connect with the world changers and bridge builders I think we have a lot to bring to such relationships – experience, connections, our own passion and some infrastructure.

The possibilities exist and probably it would not be that difficult to establish connection through various schools and other organizations. Does it then come down to that old question of commitment? Have we lost the passion for a new world except if it comes through the programs and processes we have established? Or, is our inability to form new relationships and participate in world changing activities as simple as we are so busy trying to keep the old way afloat we cannot recognize new opportunities when they appear? I wonder.

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