There is no doubt about it. Intergenerational ministry is difficult. It is hard for a congregation to realize that their church was formed in the fifties, and so the culture of the congregation caters to people who were born in that era. And most young adults–even though many of them love the historic spiritual traditions–are not able to jump into a time machine and go back to a time when our church culture made sense.
We don’t understand the world of women’s circles that elect officers. We don’t know what these special offerings go to. The church uses words all the time that are not even in our dictionary: vestibule, fellowship, and per capita.
At an event that I went to recently, I said that a lot of churches won’t be around in the next twenty years if they don’t begin doing something to reach the next generation (I base this on the fact that the average age of our members is 50-something, and the average life span is 70-something). Later that day, I was told by the Executive Presbyter that many churches don’t have twenty years. Because of the dwindling energy level, it’s more like five to seven.
In other words, it’s crisis time for many of our congregations.
So, the church-at-large can vigorously do two things: (1) learn to make space for a new generation to grow up in our congregations (which is what a lot of my writing is about) and (2) plant new churches. Both of them will be extremely important in order for us to engage a new generation.
Unfortunately, I’m realizing how difficult it is for some of our denominations to imagine new church developments. The same Executive Presbyter explained that struggling churches will often take in immigrant congregations and allow them to use their space and rent their sanctuary. But, the same struggling congregation will not allow a young new church development use their space. That, of course, puts young NCDs at a terrible disadvantage.
I understand the resistance. The struggling congregation can’t understand why the new church can’t just become a part of the existing congregation (EC). They don’t want the competition, or they don’t want to lose the very few young adults who are attending the existing church to the NCD. I’m sure there might even be some jealousy, that these young upstarts can attract the demographic that the EC has been trying to reach for years.
And yet, this is a crisis time in our denominations. And what does it say when the local theater or elementary school is more willing to rent out space than our own congregations? Shouldn’t struggling churches be excited to support a new ministry?
We don’t have much time left and we have a whole lot of pastors who want to start congregations. (There are at least five pastors in our Presbytery alone, but we’re getting ready to tie up all of our assets into a camp, so NCDs will be unlikely for 30 another years. But that’s another story.) So we need to make a way. Any way for the young upstarts.
Photo is by impastorrick