Contexts Learning Community

A row of hands holding up puzzle pieces in hazy sunlight borders the bottom of the image. The top reads 'Contexts Learning Community' in white text on a brown background. Below reads 'Generations, Generosity, Gathering, and Growth' in black text on an orange background.

Have you ever heard someone in your congregation say one of the following?

“We need families to join the church!”

“Young people should pledge — or volunteer!”

“We don’t have kids in the church anymore!”

“People come to visit, but they don’t come back!”

If so, you are not alone. We frequently hear these same comments from many congregations in the New England Region. Lots of you share concerns about aging memberships, declining religious education programs, shaky financial futures, and a dearth of volunteers.

There is shared interest in attracting young people who might be able to join, volunteer, or pledge — and even better if they have children who can join our Religious Education programs! Yet, what do we really know about the lives and realities for younger people today?

  • What motivates them to join - or not?
  • To volunteer - or not?
  • To pledge - or not?
  • To raise their children in religious community - or not?

We convened a special Contexts Learning Community for congregations seeking deeper exploration into the dynamics at play for younger people interested in living lives of faith. As a learning community we sought to more fully understand the realities of life for Millenials and Gen Z, as well as the emotional impact of existing narratives about these populations.

You heard directly from parents, educators, and other young(ish) people about their lived experiences. We also shared data that tells a more complete story than the same old stereotypes we’re used to hearing about young people, our congregations, and growth.

But we can still get more familiar with the contexts — please refer to our Contexts resources page for materials supplied for and generated at our gatherings.

What We Scheduled

  • We gathered four times over the 2023-2024 church year.
  • We asked you to have four “At Home” meetings with your team in your congregation to digest pre-work together in the weeks leading up to each gathering.
  • Pre-work contained resources to watch, read, or listen to in advance including videos or other media that directly address one aspect of Context - Generations, Generosity, Gathering, or Growth. These and our discussions included data and stories that are more complete than the same old stereotypes we’re used to hearing!