A growing number of pastors, Christian non-profit leaders and educators report that they, and those they work with, are being overwhelmed by the accelerating rate of change in the turbulent 2020s. Know the feeling?
It is not only the overwhelming challenges of the pandemic, but also the continuing disruption of the economy, the growing social unrest and the escalating climate crisis with historic devastation of forest fires in California and Oregon.
I find that numbers of Christian leaders are searching for ways to navigate these turbulent 2020s, but don’t seem to be finding the resources they need. In response, I have co-authored 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change with my good friend, Dwight Friesen.
Dwight and I believe that Christian leaders can learn some vital new practices from leaders in other fields. We want to show you ways to both more effectively anticipate and more creatively respond to some of the incoming waves of change that are likely to impact your family, church and community.
For example, while every corporation has a plan of how to respond to the next recession, I have never found a church that has such a plan. In 2007, this reality motivated me to invite 50 Christian leaders in Seattle to develop a process to anticipate some of the possible impacts of the 2007 to 2009 recession. We also invited these leaders to create new ways to enable their members to respond to this coming recession in both their own lives and their communities.
For example, leaders created courses to enable members to immediately create ways to reduce their financial vulnerability and get their finances in order. Other churches offered courses in how to bottle and freeze food from their gardens to reduce their vulnerability. A number of congregations also posted on their websites the names and emails of members who had cars in their driveways or rooms in their homes they were ready to share with others in their church or neighborhood. Looking back, anticipatory creativity clearly had a positive impact for those who participated and those they reached out to. (taken from Tom Sine, “Are You Recession Ready”, Leadership Journal, January 1, 2009.)
However, it didn’t occur to any of us that we should have helped the millennial generation to create ways to help them launch their lives in the midst of that daunting recession. Looking back, we now realize that many young millennials, due to recession, couldn’t find work. That was particularly true for young people from minority backgrounds. Many millennials wound up in their parent’s basement waiting for life to start.
Millennials who attended college were surprised to learn they had higher school debt than earlier generations. This recession also resulted in many millennials postponing getting their careers started, getting married, starting their families and purchasing homes. To this day, economists report that millennials are still further behind financially than earlier generations.
Given this failure of many of us in leadership to anticipate the impact of the 2007-2009 recession on GenY, this needs to serve as a wake up call to those working with Gen Z. We urge pastors, educators, youth workers and parents to anticipate some of the new challenges this recession poses for Gen Z. Wouldn’t it also be a very good idea for church leaders, youth workers and parents to start working immediately to create innovative ways to enable Gen Z to launch their lives as fully as possible in the midst of this prolonged recession?
In 2020s Foresight, we show leaders how to not only anticipate these new challenges but also research innovative ways to respond. For example, we describe Justin Beene, a young innovator in Grand Rapids, who created a program to address the growing rate of unemployment in interracial neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. He started Community Transformation which offers training in construction trades to enable young people to find jobs in that field. It provides valuable jobs for youth who have very few opportunities.
While many church leaders know the bad news that Pew Research shares about Gen Y and Z… that growing numbers will not affiliate with churches, I find few Christian leaders that know the good news. Since Gen Y and Z are the first digital generations, they possess a much higher level of concern for issues of racial, economic and environmental justice than older generations and many want a job that makes a difference.
I encourage church leaders to focus on enabling Gen Z to start social enterprise projects to make a lasting change in people’s lives. You could enable them to launch projects from job training to starting community gardens to not only make a difference, but also to develop their own skills in neighborhood empowerment. I suspect this kind of opportunity might make them more interested in joining churches that want to make a difference.
I would encourage Christian non-profits to offer urban empowerment learning opportunities to help them launch their lives with a more modest starting salary. Dwight and I would like to not only hear how your new projects go but welcome Zoom conversations as you are getting started.
Most of us, and leaders in our churches, are very much aware that the combination of the pandemic and the ongoing recession is making life very difficult for many of our neighbors, but many of us don’t know how to respond. Morgan Schmidt, a Presbyterian pastor in Bend, Oregon created Pandemic Partners.
She reports “…We are using Facebook to express love to our neighbors in real meaningful ways.” “One of our first requests was a gentleman who just said, ‘I’m immune-compromised. I don’t want to go to Safeway. Can I have someone run in and grab my groceries and put them in my trunk?” Pandemic Partners not only took off overnight but it has spread to churches and communities all over the US. People are running errands, fixing meals and even walking dogs. (source: Emily Cureton, OPB, Bend Oregon, March 18, 2020.)
Couldn’t you, your family and church not only join those that are helping Gen Z launch but also create ways to join groups like Pandemic Partners to make a difference in the lives of your most vulnerable neighbors in your community?
In 2020s Foresight, we show Christian leaders how to not only 1) anticipate incoming waves of change so they have lead time to respond and 2) broadly research best innovative practices, but 3) how to select those innovative practices that clearly reflect the ways of Jesus….like expressing the compassion of Christ as Pandemic Partner groups are doing.
This book will not only take readers on a tour of some of the new incoming waves of change that could impact our lives and neighborhoods in the 2020s, but also outlines innovative ways to create our best lives, best communities, best change-making and best church-making for the turbulent 2020s and beyond.
Many will value learning that 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change is designed as a study book for churches, campus ministry groups or seminaries with questions at the end of each chapter.
Article adapted from the new book 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change by Tom Sine and Dwight Friesen.
Paperback: Fortress Press, 2020
Buy Now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
Dwight Friesen and Tom Sine will be available, as time permits, to Zoom into your study groups that plan ahead. (Contact Tom Sine through his web site: www.newchangemakers.com ) They would value learning and posting some of the innovative ways you and your church or small group are creating new ways to go for your best in the turbulent 2020s that reflect the compassion of Jesus.
Tom Sine holds a Ph.D. in history with a minor in strategic foresight. He has worked for three decades with a broad range of churches, non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and Tear Fund UK as well as college students and recent grads to create new ways to live and join those making a difference in these increasingly turbulent times. Tom and Christine Sine, and their pup, Goldie, live in an intergenerational community in Seattle where they seek to model a new way of living for the 2020s called the Mustard Seed House. They and their six other residents share a weekly meal and liturgy, monthly gardening and generous hospitality when social distancing is reduced. Find him online at: www.newchangemakers.com