Stop Asking Millennials to Go to Church

Hello lovely,

I recently made the decision to leave my church home.  It was a decision I was wrestling with since about last October but I finally had enough. My church went through a lot of changes and if anyone knows me, like really knows me, they know I don't deal well with changes AT ALL. I react like an atypical teenager and it's something I've struggled with since my parents split eleven years ago.

I used to be super involved in church. Ever since I was 8 years old, I served on the altar in the Catholic church (one of very few females to do so at the time). I served under the direction of four different archbishops both here and in Miami. I eventually walked away from it all because I had a major disconnect. I still adore the Catholic mass and rituals but there was a huge split between the young people and the old ones. I was one of only a handful of people in their twenties in the church and I didn't get along with the others. It was a lonely experience and after all, isn't the purpose of going to church to fellowship with others? So I left. I stayed home from church for about two years after that before joining my most recent church.

It was a satellite campus, with the main campus in Cooper city Florida. I had never experienced anything like it and immediately joined the tech team because I wanted to be responsible for delivering that same experience to other people every Sunday.  

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1. There's only one right way to be a "Good Christian" - Don't question that

I recently got into a debate with another teacher online who was upset that one of her students told her he questions God. Bear in mind the teacher is the same age as me. This is one of the reasons people don't like the idea of church. Everything is structured in such a way that if you have any questions that challenges what anyone thinks or believes, then you're the problem. Everyone should be encouraged to question religion because quite frankly what we believe is so silly and far fetched you have to question it. In case you forgot, even Jesus questioned God before he was handed over to be crucified. There are so many things that don't make sense about Christianity yet we believe anyway. And it comes with a litany of rules that one must follow if they are to be "accepted". That's a lot for someone in the 21st century to get behind. We have questions and we know that most of the answers are BS. We know that if you want the truth, you more than likely will not find it in the church.

2. Churches are full of drama

There's always going to be someone or something you don't like. It shouldn't be that way but lately churches are full of so much drama. It's the reason I left my church. Between firings, hostile takeovers and too many egos running  church like a business has terrible implications for the overall experience. Furthermore, over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10% of our incomes to the church but where does that money actually go? Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go towards a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?Let's not be daft, church is a business. There are bills to pay to keep the building open and the priest or pastor should receive a salary for what they do (they have families to support as well). But when everyone has an opinion on how things should be done (without necessarily the experience or expertise), combined with empty promises, and extra marital affairs church is just not a safe place any more.

3. We're too busy/tired for church

We're supposed to "hustle" because let's face it, it's even harder to get established now. Businesses, brands, education, they all take hard work and dedication. And sometimes that means you're not available on a Sunday morning. So stop guilting us and making us feel like we have to choose and we're only "good" Christians if we go to church on a Sunday when worship can happen any time and anywhere.

4. Stop Talking About Us and Learn How to Accept Us

Despite the stereotypes about us, we are listening to phrases being spoken in our general direction. The church is supposed to be a place of healing and yet we don't feel like we can set foot inside without being ostracised for our sexual orientation and dress code. Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, the church is telling outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are. Here's a solution: Stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected. For some people, especially those that are shy or struggle with anxiety, putting yourself out there even just once might be an overwhelming task. The church has to find ways to bridge that gap.

5. The Church is Failing to Adapt

The need for Black Millennials to see themselves goes beyond leaders humanizing themselves. Many of us are exiting our congregations because we don’t see ourselves in the biblical text or worship practices. Our sanctuaries are adorned with depictions of saints and a savior whose skin doesn’t look like our own. Here’s the bottom line church—you aren’t reaching millennials. Enough with the excuses and the blame. It's great that the church is trying to be more youth-oriented, but usually that entails kids and teenagers. The older adults already know where they belong, leaving millennials us young adults stuck in the middle with no nurturing.

Decide if millennials actually matter to you and let us know. In the mean time, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have lead us to believe.

How a Trip to the Salon Nearly Ruined My Life

Hello Lovely,

It's funny how one day before I was supposed to do something to cheer up my soon-to-be step-sister, I was in desperate need of cheering up myself. Wait, what? You're probably wondering what happened and who this soon-to-be-step-sister is. Calm down! Let's back-track shall we?

So I work in a school as a secretary. Not glamorous but it pays the bills. My dad's girlfriend, now fiance, has two daughters who both go to this school. They're only a little over a year apart with the youngest daughter being 13. Ouch! I know! Very difficult years to navigate! Well on Friday the youngest came into the office to call her mum because she had a bad day. After she hung up, I pulled her to the side to talk. Now I know it would be very easy to ignore this situation as we are nothing to each other. But I'm the bigger (older) person and I have to set the tone for how our 'relationship' will be, i.e. whether or not we'll even have one. I should mention that before this, we had never spoken. Even during the photo shoot, I just took their pictures and communicated through my dad. I didn't expect her to say much of anything to me (she's a teen, they're tough to talk to). But as soon as we were alone, she immediately opened up and began crying. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm awkward around tears (despite also being an MFT Intern). I either start crying too, or completely ignore you. I listened to her, shared some of my own relevant experience and in a last minute effort to win her over, I offered to come by on Sunday after church to do some craft projects with her. This really got her excited and we even hugged on it!

I was really proud of myself for answering God's call to lend a helping hand to someone in need. But this joy didn't last long. On Saturday, I went to my mum's hairdresser for a wash and TRIM. I emphasize the word trim, because it seemed simple enough, yet I walked out of there with more than three inches less, than what I walked in with. As angry as I was with her, I was angrier with myself. I knew that she tends to cut instead of trim, but I still went to her because the service was being paid for by my mum. I had a feeling that she was cutting off more than she should have, but I didn't stop her. I didn't demand that she turn me around so that I could see in the mirror exactly how much she was cutting off. I didn't speak up.

And trust me, I have watched enough episodes of Law and Order SVU and read enough textbooks to know that the victim always blames herself even though it's never the victims fault, but I couldn't help it. I cried all night. Even when I thought I was over it, I cried again. My mother, dad, brother, boyfriend, best friends, even my boss (when I ran into her after the incident) tried to console me and shared in my anger. I think what made this even more difficult was that back in 2009, after getting my heart broken by my first real boyfriend, one of my best friends helped me to dye my hair at home, and then like an idiot only one month later, tried to perm it at home. You're probably thinking it couldn't have been that bad, could it? Oh it was bad trust me! The bottom right side of my head was bald and the rest of my hair was thinning out. I had no choice but to cut it in one of the ugliest haircuts I have ever seen (a little on the top, practically nothing at the back). That was definitely in my top 5 traumatic experiences ever! So when my hair got cut again, it definitely brought back flashbacks and major PTSD. I was ready to skip out on Church and the crafts on Sunday, but I made a promise to her and at her age, broken promises make you good as dead to them.

So on Sunday, I wrapped my head in a scarf, ready to hide my shame, gathered my craft supplies and headed out the door for church. I wasn't crying any more over the haircut, but a dark cloud still loomed over me. But get this. When I stepped outside, I noticed that the Hibiscus tree was in bloom. And so were my mother's Lilies. Fresh flowers that weren't there the day before! It was a miracle. I knew instantly that, that was God's way of smiling down on me and letting me know that everything would be okay. Imagine. While my world was in chaos, the outside world was still functioning and better yet, BLOOMING! My mother's lilies hadn't been in bloom in about a year. I was struggling with my outer beauty, when there was so much beauty around me.

Sure I still had an anxiety attack at church and practically ran out of the room before crying again, but that was the last of it. Having dinner with my step-family and bonding over painting mugs and bowls was really therapeutic as it allowed me to get to know them better and create something beautiful. 

Now I am not an expert artist. Painting is not my forte. Nor my step-sisters. But we had a blast fudging our way through it. I think my mug turned out pretty decent and I'm proud I was able to produce a bowl to match. Sure the bowl looks a little tribal, while the mug is more like a cow skipping through an asymmetrical garden. But everyone loved the design and I think my grandmother will love it as a Mother's Day present! (I was originally going to give it to my mother but she reads my blog so that would totally ruin the surprise).

This is the beauty of healing through art therapy. In art therapy, words are not always necessary. A mere lump of clay or a blank canvas can be far less threatening than giving voice to painful feelings, words, or images. The simple act of a scribble on paper can likely bring light to darkness, ignite conversation, or be a release for a depressing thought. I leave you with this verse to encourage you throughout your week:

Isaiah 41:10

10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The Beginning of a Dream

The Beginning of a Dream

We all have dreams, no matter how big or small. But deep down within all of us is a burning desire to be or accomplish something. Some dreams are long-term, some are short-term. No matter what, it’s important to always stay motivated on your journey. To those of you, who do not attend potential church, please allow me to share yesterday’s sermon with you. This resonated with me as I am in a constant battle on my journey to accomplishing my dreams. I hope you can find inspiration and motivation within these words to guide you throughout your week. 

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Viva 2015 Recap

Happy Monday!

I'm back from vacation! I know, it was very brief, but I really only went for the conference and to spend time with my boyfriend. We celebrated our one year anniversary, one month early! I know that may seem like we're jumping the gun, but right now our Christmas plans are really up in the air, so this was the safest bet.

I can honestly say that this was by far, my most stressful trip since moving back home in 2012. I rented a car on Wednesday and drove to my boyfriend's house. It took me 2 hours to find it! The directions I got from Google asked me to go somewhere that made no sense so I drove around and around until I started to cry from frustration. I was lucky to get directions from a lady in Rainbow (the clothing store) on NE 7th St. She was so nice! I was sad that she wasn't there when I went back to thank her.

I was so exhausted when I finally arrived that I just collapsed! I thought I would sleep but I think I was too tired to sleep. And then my boyfriend came home and surprised me with pink roses so I definitely couldn't sleep! It was the first time he had ever gotten me flowers (as much as I had bugged him in the past) so I was super excited!

On Thursday, instead of going shopping, I decided to visit my grand aunt to catch up with her. I decided to save the shopping for Friday when my boyfriend would be off (that went so horribly wrong). Before I knew it, it was time to go to the conference and enjoy the Diamond Lounge. I met the ladies from my church there. Can you believe we had 16 women from my church attend?! Sadly, we were a little underwhelmed by the festivities, but I must admit, the lack of activities was actually more productive in helping us to meet new people from different campuses. We met Sam (the girlfriend of the guy who serenaded us in the Diamond Lounge) and his mother Sandra. They were a delight to talk to!

Pastor Roy Grant and his wife Sheila from the Pensacola campus were so warm and inviting! They had that conference turned up the whole night! The room was full of energy and praise and worship did not disappoint! They played a lot of my favourite songs including This is Our Time and Unstoppable God. Loriann, our speaker, gave a lot of insight on how to be true to yourself and how dangerous comparing yourself to other women can be. She really helped me to focus on what is truly important, especially when it comes to my brand. I got to meet all of the Gramling kids (they're so humble). But night 2 is where things got really funny!

Can you believe I got lost again on the drive home? This time it's because it was so dark I couldn't see the street signs to see that I had missed my turn. Even when I finally made it back to I-95, I missed my exit because they had lane closures for about 4 miles! I was in tears! I was distraught! I found myself in Downtown Miami with no clue of how I got there or how to get out. I tried to flag down people on the road but no one even looked at me. One lady tried to help but she didn't really know how to help me and the light changed so she had to go. I made U-turns, took side corners, nothing seemed to make any sense. I prayed that God would deliver me from this nightmare, that there would be some sign of hope; anything! I finally found what looked like a school with a game going on. I turned off in hopes that I could borrow someone's phone to use their GPS so that I could find my way back. The first person I stopped looked terrified of me and dismissed me completely by saying he didn't know his way around here (completely ignoring my request to use his phone) but at least he had the heart to point me towards a police officer.

I was both relieved and terrified to find a police officer. The numerous reports of gun violence by police officers on innocent black civilians did nothing to appease my fears of being lost, but I still prayed for the best. I was so grateful for his patience and generosity. He took out his GPS and pointed me in the right direction. It turns out that I had I continued down the road I was on, I would eventually find Biscayne and then it would be a straight shot home. At this point, I knew for sure that God had heard my prayers, and in about 30 minutes I was home (but still traumatized).

My boyfriend came with me to night 2 just to make sure I didn't get lost. We never did get to go shopping because we had mismanaged our time so badly (I swear I'm never going with him to another eye appointment, ever again). He waited in the car while I enjoyed meeting more new people at the conference. Sara Conner our speaker, a Jamaican born pastor did a great job at reminding us of how powerful prayer can be and even convinced me that Jesus did squats! She put a hilarious spin on some of her own tragic experiences growing up and made the whole religious experience more relatable. I loved her for that.

The funny part? Pastor Roy gave away a gift basket just before the start of the conference, but there was a catch. You had to be wearing or have bought one of the breast cancer awareness shirts from the gift store at church and you had to be the first person on stage to get the basket. My friend Lithera, being the ever so jungaless that I love her for being, climbed on stage (kicking another lady away in the process), and crawled over to the basket. She almost had it, until a lady from the other side of the stage ran up and literally soccer kicked the basket away! The basket exploded at this point so each woman was able to grab something out of it. So I guess everybody won! Even Pastor Roy was proud of us in that moment! I wish I had caught it on video. I was too busy laughing and cheering her on. 

At the risk of this post getting WAAAAY TOO LONG, I'll summarise the rest of the trip. On Saturday after doing very light shopping, I surprised my boyfriend with a trip to Bayside and a sightseeing boat cruise! It combined two of our favourite loves: being on water and people watching. We had a blast walking around like tourists and drinking liquor and ended the evening with our anniversary dinner at Red Lobster.

So while it was a very stressful trip for a few reasons, the good moments definitely outweighed the bad. And now, it's just business as usual!

XoX

Olivia