Worship with Friends

When we visit my family, one of the things I enjoy is attending Santa Barbara Meeting. We go just often enough that some of the people recognize us. In fact, one of the Friends there has recently become a regular reader of this blog. One of these days, she's going to leave a comment, I hope.

At the rise of meeting, I dutifully gave an announcement about the upcoming workshop for young adult Friends at Quaker Center. Afterwards, I asked a Friend if there were more young adults who attend in SB, even if irregularly. We got to talking about the usual question of why aren't there more young adults. She wondered if perhaps young people today are so used to so much stimulation that maybe unprogrammed worship is not appealing to young people. I'm afraid I reacted rather hotly, but I think this is just like #6 on my list - the real problem is that most young people don't know about Quaker meeting for worship. We also considered that the college age population is very transient in California, and it's hard to sustain something over the long term, especially for a volunteer group like unprogrammed/non-pastoral Friends.

But it's not just SB or SF meetings that are failing in this regard - it's an epidemic of failure.

Here's my latest idea for a sample card that could be posted on the campus ministry bulletin board of any college:

Worship with Friends
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
6:00 Tuesdays
11:00 Sundays
65 Ninth Street, between Market and Mission

Isn't that what most people say they want at meeting, whether young or old: friends?

There are at least a half dozen colleges in San Francisco. How hard could this be to post at each of them? And to re-post it once a year.

But would an 18-25 year old person even notice a card on a bulletin board? Would we need postcards we could leave around in coffeeshops and on windshields? Colored paper flyers were common when I was in college. Are they still used at all?

What would it take to have a text message announcement? I don't even know how it really works, but I see them at the end of ads or hear about it on the radio. Does this already exist in other meetings? Could the Quakerfinder site have a text message component? Just wondering this morning.

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Blogger Liz in the Mist said...

Facebook is something a lot of college students are on. I just created a group on there for my Yearly Meeting, as we are needing to get more young people involve.

Transience was something that was mentioned several times at YAF, about being transient enough to not get highly involved in a meeting. I guess I may not have much advice on reaching out to transient students, as I moved 3 hours away for college and have been here for about 7 years now and been involved in a Quaker church ever since. What got me hooked there? People that care about me (and people I look forward to see) as well as avaliabity for involvement--both socially and spiritually. There isn't much offered for my age group, which sometimes I miss, other times, its kind of the 'oh I am 24 I need to start doing adult stuff' mentality.

From what I remember there was not much talk about spiritual sustainment afterwards, and I do think that is a pertinent topic. I always get his 'Quaker high' during conferences/retreats, than get sad to leave the whole journey home and am not quite sure what to do with myself once I arrive home.

2/21/2007 11:42 PM  
Blogger Nancy A said...

Our meeting is struggling with how to draw out younger attenders. I have suggested a more postmodern approach to the outreach, but the elders don't quite get that. So maybe that's our answer...

A few people in our meeting have quibbles with the word "worship" which means something very different in a Quaker context than in a church/mosque/temple context. I wonder if it's offputting. But that raises the question, What's a good alternate word???

2/22/2007 11:23 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Liz, does Facebook work for local announcements, like "Come to 65 Ninth Street on Tuesday night at 6:00 to be with God and Friends?" Or is it more of a personal ad kind of site? I will look it up, but I wonder how you use it.

Transience was a real problem for me when I was 23-26 and newly Quaker. I lived in five cities in four years and then finally settled in SF, where I became a member, and have been here for the last 12 years. But I just kept showing up, wherever I was. It helped, I'm sure, that I met Chris M. fairly early on in this process. I wrote about that on my blog last year.

I worry that Quakers are not teaching our young people how to sustain a spiritual life in a real vs. an artificial community. I'm open to suggestions.

Nancy, don't all words have issues? I think worship is adequate shorthand for being present to God, which is my shorthand understanding of the purpose of meeting for worship. Is it off-putting? Probably for some. Is it clear enough for others? Probably. It doesn't bother me much.

2/22/2007 12:42 PM  
Blogger cubbie said...

there's also myspace. it has event invites. but it only really works if you know the person. otherwise they get pretty annoyed.

i could join some sf related communities on livejournal and post about the movies and stuff.

text messaging, like on phones? most people have to pay to receive them, so in general, it's a pretty rude way to advertise.

2/22/2007 2:25 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Ooh - maybe our meeting needs a myspace page. Not a super hip one, but just with basic calendar announcments and photos of some folks having fun. I don't know how many people in our meeting already have a myspace page, probably very few. But this is not beyond our capacity. It seems like all the musicians I know have a page.

And no, I didn't mean spamming people with text messages. I meant more like having a line at the end of an ad or on our webpage or whatever - for more information, send a text message to x number, and then you would get a message back with an invitation to the next event or something. I know I've seen this, but I don't know if anyone actually requests information this way.

Of course the main problem is that it all takes time. And since no one's getting paid to do this, it's a lot less likely to happen. These are the hazards of a non-pastoral system.

2/22/2007 3:27 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Back to the question of the word worship, I'd like to suggest a link to Wess Daniel's post What Is Worship? not because it expresses my opinion exactly, but it broadens the discussion.

2/23/2007 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Robin, this is a great discussion that you've got going on here. As you know a lot of things are moving online, and I think that we need to consider what it means to shape kingdom communities in light of the "global information" culture. I guess a could things I can think of right off that bat is that "postmodern evangelism" is really just building relationships. Part of the reason why older churches don't have younger people in them is because the people in the church don't have relationships, or aren't where younger people spend all their time--bars, coffee shops, the web, concerts (see are a few examples).

However it gets done, we need to have relationships with people first long before most will ever walk into a worship service whether it's unprogrammed or programmed.

When it comes to the web one thing I would encourage is to find people you already know who are on it, who understand and see if you can partner with them to do the communication through myspace, facebook or whatever. Just making a page with some info won't make any difference, it's that person or group that's well connected and has already gained some trust that is the most like to make the proper links between people and churches.

One final thing is to consider some kind of small group, discussion group, bible study, or whatever that isn't the worship service. I think it's really hard for someone who has no church experience to walk into a programmed worship service because it's so different from their own culture, I think it's at least as awkward for someone like this to walk into an unprogrammed service and have any idea what's happening, why, or what he/she is supposed to do during it. BUT if you started meeting somewhere with a couple younger people you already know for dinner, coffee, or something and discuss things important to them, build relationships with them it may be easier to help them then make sense of the worship service.

You may want to look at "Live to Tell" by Brad Kallenberg its a pretty short book about evengelism in postmodernity.

2/24/2007 10:53 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks Wess. You're right - the only way these online communications work is if there's a live person closely connected to it - to respond with the text message, or to link to their friends on myspace, or whatever. I think this is why blogs are so successful - you know there'a a person there, it's not just an impersonal webpage, one size fits all.

I would think it's more awkward to walk into unprogrammed worship - it's really not obvious what's going on. I'm wondering more about how to facilitate an off-site discussion group kind of thing. Hmmm.

I've added the book to my list to look for. Thanks!

2/24/2007 3:36 PM  

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