I recently encountered a singing priest. He burst into a John Legend song right in the middle of a wedding Mass. At one point he was giving his homily with the bride and groom sitting quietly listening, and then suddenly he started singing, “All of me, loves all of you…give your all to me, I’ll give my all to you.” You’ve probably heard the song on the radio a time or two (or a hundred). He sang the entire song.
As you can imagine, everyone was slightly surprised. I certainly had never seen a priest burst into a pop song, a cappella, in the middle of a formal Catholic mass.
My first thought was, “wow, he’s a pretty good singer.” Then I thought, slightly condescendingly I must confess, was “what is he doing?! How could he be doing this during a wedding ceremony?!”
And then I realized something – I loved it. I found myself appreciating his honesty, his charisma, and his passion.
This was an intentional expression of joy – and it was refreshing. And the more of that we show the world, the more the world wants to know the source of that joy. Especially when that joy is intentionally expressed in unexpected times.
According to psychologists, the twenties are the most formative, pivotal time of our adult lives. What patterns and choices we make in our twenties determines our course of life. It’s called the “Defining Decade” for a reason. So, I encourage young adults in my church to not consider their twenties as wandering years that are meaningless. I encourage intentionality – in both their life choices and their faith. I encourage them to live out their twenties with purpose.
Millennials are craving honest conversations, questions that make us uneasy, topics that might make us a bit uncomfortable. Millennials don’t need everything wrapped up in a pretty box, they just want churches and church leaders to have the courage to pose the questions, complicated though they may be.
Have a Conversation
In reality, it takes intentionality on all sides if the church is going to effectively engage college students and millennials. It’s as simple as being intentional in striking up a conversation with that college student or group twenty-somethings at the coffee bar, during the greeting time, or after service. Be intentional to invite them over for lunch or dinner, or over coffee. Get to know them, hear their stories – you just might be surprised at how much you learn.
And as church leaders, we can be intentional about how we groom millennials for leadership and offer opportunities for leadership. Perhaps it’s a position on a leadership board, or leading a Sunday morning class, or giving younger people a voice in worship services? Regardless of what it is – may we embrace the voices of the Millennials in our churches. The perspective they bring is priceless.
The more intentional we are about giving millennials a voice in our churches, and a space to speak into church life, the more we will be surprised at the songs that come bursting forth.