Progressive Christian Channel
Crushed: Ministering to Millennials
While spending time with friends and coworkers outside the walls of the traditional church, seminarian Jonathan Barker often thought of the word "crushed."
The term, as used by Barker and other millennials, is a reference to Psalm 34:18—"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Barker, a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California has found himself in the position of ministering to this group of brokenhearted and crushed people.
To support himself while in school, Barker took a job at a 24-hour gym.
"I worked the graveyard shift at the gym, meeting people who had had hard things happen to them at church," Barker said.
One coworker began to share her experiences with Barker. "After about six days of this, she finally caught her breath and asked me, 'What do you do?'" Barker said. Upon hearing that he was studying to be a pastor, her response was that he would make a terrible pastor because he hadn't shamed her for all the 'sins' she had told him about.
"These conversations—I had many of them with coworkers—started to break my heart, to realize how much people had experienced the church in a negative way," Barker said.
The question confronted him: What would it look like to minister among these people?
"For this generation who have had all these tough experiences, for my coworkers who have been crushed by religion along with a lot of other things, we wondered, could we create a space where the Lord can be near them and rescue them?" Barker said.
That questioning has lead to the launch of Crushed, a faith community that began meeting weekly in September. This experiment has been supported by the San Fernando Presbytery, a new church development within the presbytery, and Bridges, an organization seeking to incubate and cultivate such initiatives.
Crushed might not be a common name for a church gathering, but this group of mostly millennials—often defined as those born between 1980-1999—is anything but typical.
The 'service' has three parts.
"For the first part, our gathering, I encourage everybody to bring their iPod and have people share a song or two," Barker said. Because the group meets on Saturday nights, Barker's goal is to create something casual to "keep it safe, lighten it up and make it feel like an actual Saturday night activity."
After this gathering time, Barker gives a short sermon directed at some aspect of being crushed. "How can we go from being this group who has been crushed and navigate that on this journey together?" he said.
The sermon is followed by a time of silence and then a time of group sharing. "The whole idea of that time is to allow people to be listened to," Barker said.
Erin Dunigan is a freelance writer, photographer, and pastor who lives in a small coastal community in Baja California, Mexico when she is not following her wanderlust out into the world.