Anyway, the experience that got our conversation moving was when the other student merely inquired about the possibility of attending a non-Lutheran seminary. His experience was that he was given dagger stares from other participants. This puzzled the both of us. While we are great supporters of the Lutheran seminary system, we do think there are times when folks could attend other schools, either because they want more of an academic track or because of some other restriction. No problem (as long as they attend their Lutheran year at a Lutheran seminary, but this requirement is likely to sidetrack the following discussion so I will let it lie).
We puzzled over the strong loyalty shown to Lutheran seminaries. After all, everything we read about the millennial generation is that denomination loyalty is ebbing. Why this strong reaction? (I will grant that the reaction was only perceived and did not actually reflect the reality of the situation, but I trust this young man’s perception usually so I will trust him here.) My colleague wondered if the situation of the millennials was misread in some way or perhaps this is a subset of the generation that does not actually follow the general trend. I disagreed. I wondered if it was not something more akin to what I dubbed at the time a “Facebook effect.”
Loyalty passed down from a communal system is possibly of less value to millennials than a self-selected loyalty. The issue then is not that millennials are not loyal but are fiercely loyal to something of their own choosing, such as when folks hit the “Like” button on Facebook. Now on Facebook people can hit “Like” on a great number of things very easily so everything they like is not necessarily a fierce loyalty. However some of the things that people “Like” will be very close to their sense of identity. And as my pastoral care professor (at a Lutheran seminary no less) said, “the closer something is to our identity, the more emotional people are about it, the stronger the reaction toward it…” For a group of pre-seminary students making the choice to attend seminary would I imagine be close to one’s identity as it will be a defining mark of one’s service and formation for years to come.