13 February 2012

"Young People Should Be More Committed to the Church"

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Church, Tagged with church culture leadership millenials young adults

church councilYoung adults need to be more committed to church. At least, that's what I hear

What does that mean exactly? And, more importantly, how do we define that commitment?

Here's my hunch. When we say we want greater commitment from people, we mean commitment in the way people have purportedly "always" been committed in church. This tends to look like official positions with long-term time-intensive commitments of time. We reward longevity (not that there's anything wrong with that) but we less frequently celebrate shorter term commitments.

This ethos emerges from our congregational systems, which were created in a time when people had more time, when one-income families were more the norm, and when the landline phone was the latest technology. We no longer live in this world.

When we ask for "commitment" it sounds to me like we are saying we want people to commit these dated congregational systems and structures. And I'm quite sure we aren't even close to talking about commitment to faith or God.

Biased Systems

In fact, these systems, simply given the times they were devised, are biased against people with the most limited time - the same people we say we want to be more committed - young adults who are starting their careers and/or have young children. (I realize we are all busy and we all have to make choices, but you have to ask yourself why are young adults underrepresented in our church leadership. This is one of the biggest reasons why.)

So, rather than making people feel bad because they don't fit the system, maybe, just maybe, we should change the system to fit them. That is, if we really want them to participate and lead us. The church can be so reluctant to make accommodations that I'm not sure we really do.

People can commit. They want to commit. They are committed. It's just not in the same way it has "always been".

We must redefine what commitment looks like now in terms of time, giving, gifts, and faith. If we don't, we'll just keep asking people to give something they can't give. Older leaders will get frustrated and burned out. Younger leaders will just stop trying.

Meetings in One Hour

I was quite encouraged this week by a blog post by Miguel Angel Escobar from the Episcopal Church Foundation a blog post by Miguel Angel Esobar from the Episcopal Church Foundation, where he reports that he has increased participation and the diversity of leadership by using conference calls, Google Docs, and keeping meetings to an hour. This sounds downright miraculous. As a mutual friend commented, "What's next, will Miguel walk on water?" Miguel will be taking this idea further when he will begin inviting people to collaboration via Google+ Hangouts, which allows up to ten people to video conference for free.

I'm pretty sure if we could configure our work together in creative ways such as this - ways that make the most of people's time by utilitizing the technology of our time - we would have more people, both younger and older, engaged in leadership.

Let's build a better church. What do you think about all this? How might we rethink both our structures and expectations to honor the commitments people can and do make?

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