college students (and a few others) on the church

Every now and then, I freelance articles. It’s a fun gig since it lets me cover some really cool events and pays me (admittedly not much) at the same time. I spent last weekend at a conference on the Ministry Inquiry Program, which was held at Eastern Mennonite University. MIP is jointly run by Mennonite Church USA and a number of Mennonite-affiliated schools and it lets students do 11-week internships in churches as a way to explore their callings to ministry. I had many, many quotes I wanted to include in the article but wasn’t able to do so because of length, so I’m including them here. I’m not identifying anyone since I never asked permission to do so, and also because I don’t have everyone’s names, but I found what they had to say to be both energizing and hopeful.

“Empire is about stability. The church is about movement . . . If it becomes stable, it looks like empire after awhile.”

“I am convinced that it is going to be a struggle for those of us who are Euro-American . . . to figure out how to live in a future that doesn’t look like us anymore. We are going to struggle with privilege and responsibility, we are going to struggle with issues of understanding culturally.”

“I have great hope, I am greatly afraid, and I have trouble sleeping.”

“We’re not trying to say, ‘This is the way church should be,’ but it’s exciting and energizing to me to begin to address the issue that church isn’t working for a lot of people. So what do we do with that as believers? How do we make this work for more people?”

“We want to create and foster community . . . Kind of past last names, but actually real community. How that’s done is kind of a work in progress.”

“We still care about being intergenerational, because we do have a wealth of deep experience and knowledge in all our generations. Even though people like me like to … criticize tradition, we still have to respect and listen to all the wisdom of the people that have gone through this before us.”

“Everybody is a minister. We all have different kinds of callings and gifts… Everybody [should be] ministering in their own ways, and most times it should be outside of the church.”

“You only get out of church what you bring in.”

“Some of those criticisms [of the church] are certainly valid, and we should pay attention to that, but we can’t be focusing on all the problems, because we’re never going to arrive and have the perfect church.”

“Is church Sunday morning or is church what we do together?”

“The church needs to be engaging the culture, engaging the way they’re communicating, whether that’s the internet–so that we don’t just pretend that those things aren’t there.”

“The church is pulled in seemingly two different directions: One is the desire to grow deeply in relationship with each other. And the other is to welcome anyone and everyone and grow in that way. For good relationships to be fostered, they take time. And they take intentionality.”

“The kingdom is now, and Christ is already at work.”

“One of the things that my group keeps coming back to is how hard it is to foster a community and intimacy when you see each other for three hours once a week and most of it is just you sitting beside each other. If we can get into each other’s lives on a day-to-day basis, that intimacy would just follow us.”

“Church is a really ambiguous term that we use for a lot of things. It can be a noun, it can be a verb… If we make church something that we do, and not something that we go to, that community is fostered a lot more.”

“One of the biggest things we can do is let our congregations know that we care, and that we want to be the church now, and that we want to be the future and that we want to work with them to create something meaningful.”

“If we want the church to change, we just have to change ourselves.”

“I’m encouraged, deeply encouraged, by the interest and the excitement and the inspiration and time the young adults who are here and invested and ready to explore the church and that is invigorating to a pastor who’s been in the saddle for a little while. It’s really exciting to see you being ready to explore what all this means. And also for the excitement that I see in imagining what new forms and ways church might be expressed. And I don’t think that detracts from what has been, and that doesn’t mean that what has been is wrong at all, because it’s the vehicle by which all of us come to this place.”

“It’s sometimes hard to think outside of the box when you are the box.”

“The church will not change, the church will not fulfill what God intends for it without people who lead it who also love it as it is.”

“Christianity should be less of a religion, and more of a way of life.”

“I’m really excited that you’re a little bit annoyed, and that you’re not enamored… A little bit of frustration is actually what we need from you.”

Comment (1)

  1. Storbakken

    My grandfather was raised near Mennonite and Hutterite colonies. In fact, his ancestors migrated from with the Hutterites from Russian to South Dakota. I’m always interested in learning more about these people. Thanks for providing the quotes. I wish I could read the article. (My full-time gig is freelance, so I always encourage other freelancers). My favorite quotes are:

    “I have great hope, I am greatly afraid, and I have trouble sleeping.”

    “The kingdom is now, and Christ is already at work.”


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