The Yellow House of Highland is a ministry of Community Renewal International in Shreveport, Louisiana that is working to equip young adults to become faithful change agents in society by teaching, modeling, and facilitating intentional Christian Community. Growing community, finding meaning, and taking action is the focus they take when working with their yearly residential interns. RLC is glad to share these thoughts for local churches from young adults, age 20-25, at the Yellow House.
Once a year at the Yellow House, we take a full month to focus on the mark of Humble Submission to Christ’s Body, the Church. This is not a month we take lightly, gloss over, or shy away from around here. As a community of folks attempting to become faithful Jesus-followers who utilize the 12 Marks of New Monasticism, part of our inherent purpose is to learn to be the Body of Christ with this particular people in this particular place in such a way that helps to preserve or reawaken parts of the Church’s identity that over time may have been forgotten or become distorted. This is obviously no small task, but it’s a deeply important one. It is mercy work that must be done amongst a beautiful and forgetful people; and our little cell of the Body feels we have a small part to play in that preservation and reawakening.
In an effort to do that, we practice being the Church we dream of together (aware that only once in a blue moon do we “get it right”), submitting ourselves to one another and to the God that connects us in love. We read about the history we stand on (see The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle), learning to see the patterns of cause and effect that got us to this moment and thoughtfully considering where the Spirit could be moving in our midst for today and the days coming.
We engage conversation with folks in other circles of the faith, specifically those working within the institutional church—a part of the Body that we love dearly, to which we owe much of our own formation, and for which we have some questions. And we commit to thinking critically, but never settling for criticism that isn’t hand-in-hand with compassionate creativity.
In one brainstorming session with our young-adult interns, we sat down to dream up some ideas we’d love to see experimented with in local congregations. We’ve written out a few hopes and ideas from a small cross-section of the millennial generation that so deeply loves the church while simultaneously feels compelled to challenge inauthenticity and the lack of a practically applied Good News in a hurting world. Perhaps these simple bullet points could get our collective wheels turning in some fruitful directions.
What would you love to see offered by local church bodies and/or what efforts would you be interested in taking part in or starting?
- Creating intergenerational & interracial mentoring relationships
- Prioritizing community members getting to know their literal neighbors
- Small-group based relational tithing circles
- Eco-friendly bulletins (using biodegradable or electronic bulletins, have recycling bins stationed at churches, put 4-6week’s worth of information in 1 bulletin which is reused each week, and/or create weekly e- bulletins and encourage those with smart phones not to grab the hard copies)
- Mini-experiments in life-together (i.e. 2-week structure retreats that mimic and teach intentional community, and/or have congregants visit an intentional community to witness the direction that the church is taking)
- A system of needs-cards/provision-cards and a way to match them up amongst your congregation (contractors, nannies, doctors, etc.). And if within your congregation you have an excess of wealth or needs-providers but a lack of poverty and needy people with whom to match them, asking the question, “Why is this so?” And then making changes accordingly.
- Gleaning rooms for clothes and/or supplies and/or food pantry
- Open-minded Bible studies and discussion forums (not being afraid of controversy or difference)
- Creating/carving out space to grieve and respond to current events/social injustices (i.e. lament services, marches, prayer vigils)
- Encouraging daily morning prayer within zip coded small groups and/or at the church (utilizing Common Prayer)
- Standing in solidarity with oppressed people groups outside of the church (going to them). Asking, “What do you need?” And listening.
- Asking, “What do you need?” of neighbors that live directly around church buildings. Asking the hard questions about why your church may be primarily made up of piped-in congregants rather than neighbors.
- Prison visits + re-entry programs within the church
- Encouraging hospitality rooms within churches and within homes of congregationmembers
- When 2 small churches are dwindling, joining up (even and especially when one congregation is black and one is white)
- Partnering business leaders in churches with neighbors to help provide jobs
- Embracing and creating times of silence
- Having a meal night for congregants and the broadercommunity (and incorporate communion)
- Considering a more racially diverse staff in an effort to encourage diversity of the congregation
- Writing music that pertains & speaks to the lives that are actually being lived by community members
- Sharing sermons that pertain & speak to the lives that are actually being lived by community members
- Offering and teaching a Rule of Life for church members to live by together
- Teaching and focusing more on all of the spiritual gifts
- Free child care for single parents
- Diversity in language during service (dual screens or translators)
- Finding out if your church is ADA accessible and Sign-language friendly
- Creating insurance and healthcare alternatives
- Creating/encouraging covenants and pathways for reconciliation within small groups
- Financial assistance classes, years of Jubilee (encouraging the forgiveness of some form of debt every few years), asking families to not live in houses bigger than what is needed or having them invite others to live with them
- Learning about and celebrating the in-marching Saints who have gone before us
- Rethinking Holidays to where they do not center around excess and greed
- Encouraging community members to live geographically close to other community members or to the poor and/or different
- Encouraging intentional relationships
- Setting up a retreat center with pastoral care and guidance and offer to people with little money
- Offering income based or communally funded counseling
- Reassessing what resources are being wasted and what ways they can become more sustainable
- Encouraging home-based programs to save on church resources and/or multi-purposed church spaces (soup kitchen by day, shelter by night, church by weekend)
- Encouraging/teaching nonviolence
- Encouraging the coexistence of singles and married people and families (specifically things for singles that don’t pertain to life starting “after marriage”)
- Facilitating small groups that are zip code based
- Educating and resourcing community gardens, solidarity fridges, off-the-grid opportunities
- Resourcing people with information about how to do meal wagons and coalition child care
- Demonstrating tool libraries, car pooling, bike boneyards, after school programs etc.
- Equipping members to be foster parents or better yet, homes that invite single/young parents to live with them
Thanks for reading! These are a few of our thoughts. We share them with this prayer: may we become the Church we dream of…little by little.