General Assembly (or GA, or GA 2017) is a big deal in our tribe. Every four years, Nazarenes swarm from around the world to decide on the latest updates to who we say we are. There are a wide range of sentiments about this festive event, ranging from “boring” and “old-fashioned” to “joyful” and “riveting” (okay—that last one might be a stretch). You might expect, then, that millennial clergy like myself are rather reluctant to head to Indy this week. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I tell people that I’m going and that I’m not a delegate (so my attendance is not required), the response is usually one of surprise. “Really? Why do you go if you don’t have to?” More and more, though, I see GA as both the room where it happens and a family reunion rolled into one! And I’m not the only one. This year, a sizable number of millennial clergy are planning not only to attend GA but to rock it! How, you say? Glad you asked. Here’s how to rock GA—millennial style.
Step 1: Show up! There’s quite a bit of General Assembly buy-in from our millennial clergy. In March 2017, Nazarene Research Services did a survey of Nazarene millennial clergy—to which more than 900 young pastors responded! Beyond those planning to attend GA as delegates, an additional 30 percent of respondents said they were planning to come to GA even though they are not delegates. That’s a lot of commitment for people who aren’t obligated to show up! You wanna rock it, you gotta be there.
Step 2: Lodge together. Between Airbnb, friends or family, and a host of other options, there’s no need to pay full price for a hotel room. If you’re not a delegate, the world is your oyster! This year, several of my friends have rented homes and rooms across the city—it’s how we roll. Not only is it usually more affordable, but the ability to have late-night talks about our denominational hopes and dreams is priceless! Besides, all the millennials are doing it.
Step 3: Bring the kids! Lots of young pastors have littles—what better time to introduce them to the larger-church family than at GA? Let the kids stay in your room, set some agenda for themselves, and attend kid-targeted activities throughout the week. I attended GA with my family once, before I went to college, and it gave me an unparalleled sense of connection to something bigger than myself.
Step 4: Hang out! Meet-ups are a great way to connect with like-minded people and maybe even meet some new, lifelong friends. There are endless meet-ups and collective meals throughout GA, and events for young clergy are no exception. There are two (free!) Young Clergy Network gatherings on the schedule, and anyone who is a young pastor or wants to support young pastors is totally invited. Come join us!
Step 5: Caffeinate locally. Convention coffee has a bad rep—and for good reason. Rather than subject yourself to the collective vat of stale brew onsite, follow the young’uns and go local! Every big city has tons of options for a decent cup o’ joe, and Indianapolis is no exception. Already on my radar are Bee Coffee Roasters and Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company—and I’m sure you could find more!
Step 6: Tweet it out! In 2013, GA itself was well represented on various social-media platforms, but the most up-to-date happenings for millennials were on Twitter. So get on board, if you’re not already, with this intuitive-even-for-boomers app. Follow all the Naz-famous tweeters you love, as well as grassroots Naz-news efforts like @29NazGA.
Step 7: Have fun! For many (especially the bivocational among us), GA costs a lot of vacation time—and who wants to get too serious on vacation?! Work in some side trips, casual lunches, and scenic routes. Later, when you’ve made more memories than one week should be allowed to hold, you’ll know you rocked it.
Finally, be on the lookout for moments of harmony and hope. For many millennial clergy, this GA is a litmus test. Will we love one another as Christ has loved us? Will we elect a female general superintendent? The young clergy I know have been praying for unity (not uniformity), as well as for the opportunity to see God’s Spirit move. We’re on the lookout for signs of life and hope in the midst of this family reunion. Will our tribe allow God to lead, convict, inspire, and draw us together? We young clergy sure hope so. Let’s find out together.