So, a while back, we were talking about membership on the God Complex, and whether it’s something that we should do away with. I have wonderful friends who think that membership is irrelevant in a 21st Century church. But, I tend to think that we should keep the concept around. I like it.
When I look at things generationally, I realize that I am part of Generation X. On the whole, many of us were not and are not joiners. Just about every social construct, from political parties to church, used to decry the fact that we weren’t engaged enough.
There was a huge drop-off. I think, partly, because people were used to the large number of Boomers, and we are a much smaller generation. So, if organizations grew a lot because young Boomers were joining them, there was going to be a downturn in the numbers when Gen X came of age, because there are simply not as many of us.
And, because, as I mentioned, we’re not joiners. Many of us are pretty cynical. And we’re very innovative. So, often, we would rather start something than join something.
Yet, I see something different happening with the college students I work with. One of them recently asked if we could start a Protestant Club. I tried to stifle my shock when she said it, and I was very enthusiastic in my affirmative response, but in my head I was thinking: Really? A Protestant Club? I would never… I am so out of touch.
The truth is there is a shift with Generation Y, or the Millennials. They like joining things and they are much more politically active.
In our congregation, I cannot help but notice that people are really excited about joining the church. Even people who are my age. It usually takes them a lot longer to decide to join, and it’s more of an internal wrestling match. And I have a lot of conversations with people who “really don’t like organized religion.” And we have even had people who cross their fingers or prepare written statement clarifying what they mean by some of the affirmations of joining. But most really like to do it.
The thing that I would like to change is not whether we have membership or not. I would like to change the requirements of membership. On the radio show, Bruce and I both waxed eloquently about the importance of membership, how it makes us a part of something larger than ourselves. How it affirms our deeper commitment to a community. Etc, etc.
Then, we talked about how our denomination has a per capita (a head tax), and so people tend to meticulously clean the rolls of Presbyterian Churches.
It’s true. If you have not shown up or given money in two years, your head will roll.
But why is that? If we believe all of the beautiful things we say about membership, why not allow people to hang on a bit, after they’ve moved, or if they’re not on good terms with God for a couple of years? I mean, if we believe that this is a deeper covenant, shouldn’t we be okay with paying the $32.50 (or whatever it is) tax to the denomination, even if we don’t get a regular offering from the person? Isn’t that kind of stingy?
I have certainly had years in my life when I couldn’t bear to go to church. Or give money. I was just going through some internal wrestling at the time. I just can’t imagine getting a note from my congregation, saying that they had removed me from the rolls when I was in the midst of it. That would have cut me off for good.
What do you think?
photo by JenniPenni