As we’ve been discussing, many churches fail to invest in the new life opportunities that come their way. They continue to pour their resources into familiar holes, often because the long-term members demand it. A church must invest in its new life, then begin to follow where that growth is leading, and finally, the third step emerges into view.
Now we must EMPOWER that new life!
If step one is investing in new life, and step two is to start allowing that new life to reshape our ministries, then step three is to begin moving that new life into the leadership structure of the church. Many years ago, I taught a Sunday school class filled with young couples. It was an amazing group of nearly fifty couples–the kind of group that any pastor would think his church could enjoy for decades. But in spite of the fun we had together each Sunday morning, I could see an emerging problem. All of the leadership roles in the church were filled by an older generation. Not one deacon slot had been opened to anyone under the age of fifty. The result? My group didn’t see the church as their church, but instead saw themselves as attending someone else’s (the older folks’) church.
Ownership is the ultimate assimilation goal. When people see the church as their church, they will fully invest their lives in its efforts. I don’t mean “theirs” in the sense of possession or control, but there is a sense of deep connection that occurs when someone speaks of the church as “us.” We had that ownership in our class, but because leadership hadn’t transferred to this younger group, the larger church wasn’t theirs–at least in their thoughts.
The result? After my wife and I moved away the class broke up and in less than three years, only a handful of those couples were still in the church. Most had moved to a congregation where the leadership was vested in others their age.
A church that reaches younger adults must find a way for those young adults to step into leadership roles. Too many church boards are dominated by the older members of the church. We may argue for their experience, and that experience must be valued, but we must begin to integrate the new life of our church into leadership roles. If that new life is a different ethnic group, steps must be taken to bring some of these new friends into leadership.
Look around the conference table at the next deacon meeting and you will see the representatives of the groups that have ownership in the church. If the new life you’ve achieved is missing, you’re only a few months or years from losing their contribution to the future of your church.
So three steps must be taken to turn new life into a new life cycle for your church–Invest, Follow, and Empower. This is the road to leading your church into a future greater than its current reality.