As a church we do a fairly decent job of keeping the older generation employed and busy. We do a fairly poor job of drawing the younger generations into leadership, however, unless they are willing to plug in and do what the older generations have done and in the way that those older generations have been doing it. We have a bias in favor of experience. I understand that bias. I feel it myself. But I think it’s killing us for the long term.
Check Ben Arment’s article, The Future is the New. Here’s his argument in a nutshell:
We miss out on the most important season of a vision’s lifecycle because we have an undying love for proven ideas and a blatant disregard for new ones. We don’t want to tolerate the hardships or the impossible odds that come with new ideas. We don’t want to take a risk on something untested. We want to gather where others are gathering, celebrate what others are celebrating, and affirm what others are affirming.
What do you think about it? What are some ways we could open up to innovation by the younger generations?
I think one of our biggest fears concerns how we keep things going as change happens. We’re prone to think that the younger leaders need to step into what we’re already doing (maintaining it), establish (we really mean prove) themselves in the old roles, and only then (and slowly) move into the new and different.
The current foundation of our discipleship ministry is Sunday School. We do Sunday School for all ages. If you’ve worked with Sunday School ministry in the past couple of decades, you may have experienced a difficulty in getting people to do the work. It’s tough to find teachers. Then the ones we find may only do it for the short term. Or, without warning, they might not show up some Sunday. We want people to step into these old traditional roles now. If they have new ideas, let them try them later.
But perhaps you’ve noticed something. Children’s Sunday School still seems to be drawing some kids. Of course, the problem with children’s Sunday School is getting the parents to bring their kids. Why on earth wouldn’t parents bring their kids to Sunday School? Free child care, isn’t it? But if the parents either (a) lack a vision of discipleship to Jesus or (b) have no compelling participation in a discipleship setting themselves, then after a while even the promise of free child care becomes outweighed by the busyness of life and bother of just another activity to haul the kids to.
Are there other ways to disciple people (children and adults)? Since Sunday School as we know it is a fairly recent invention, there must be. Are we willing to allow other people to pioneer new ways of discipling?
But I use Sunday School only as an illustration, chosen because its express objective, making disciples, is so close to the core of what we’re about. Any other area of church life could be mentioned as well.
I don’t see the younger generations flocking in to do what we’ve been doing the way we’ve been doing it. Working that way either assimilates people to the System, losing any innovative edge they might have had, or it dulls them into apathy and runs them off.
If we’re going to make progress, we need to identify some things:
– Why are we here? What is our purpose? We need to be able to answer this kind of question clearly enough that it results in clear consequences both for action – what we ought to be doing – and inaction – what we ought to not do, or stop doing.
– Are there any risks we’re not willing to take?
– How can we become more open to risk taking?
When I see (a) the many people around who need Jesus and (b) the large percentage of our active and committed people who are over age 70 (and who most likely will not be as active and committed 10 years from now), we need to start taking these risks now, before it is too late.