Does church maintain the status quo? We talk a good game about transformation and renewal but are we organisationally set up to avoid it?
This isn’t a new question for me.
I remember thinking about it when I was training for youth work at Jordanhill in 1991. Apparently other people had been thinking about organisational inertia it for longer than that because there were books written about it.
In youth work this questions appears in the guise of ‘Do we train young people to be good, middle class, well mannered high achievers?’ or ‘Do we just want young people to be like us?’.
There is some really interesting stuff around at the moment about how we might work with young people to develop an authentic expression of church with no expectation that they should or would even want to worship and gather in community in the same way we might.
There is another aspect to this question… Does the church maintain the political and social status quo?
I remember sitting in a Church of Scotland General Assembly where someone suggested a change. The Principle Clerk stood up and stated that such a change would require an Act of Parliament. The clear implication taken was that this would be too difficult and the proposer should sit down and shut up. Which they did. This is just one fairly extreme example but in many ways all of our decision making processes mitigate against change. We consult widely, we need broad agreement, we take ages to change.
These can all be good things. Taking time prevents lurching from one position to another, making snap decisions and encourage reflection and consultation. It gives time for discussion, consideration and prayer. These ‘safeguards’ prevent the loudest voice winning out, include a wide range of people in the process and hopefully listen to what God might be saying to the church.
They can also kill enthusiasm, limit growth and stifle innovation.
What really baffles me is when the church seems to be in agreement about the need for change but is completely unable to make that change happen. Perhaps it is be cause too many things would need to change all at once. Perhaps it is because we don’t have a clear idea what that change would actually look like. Perhaps it is because we aren’t training people to be creative, risk taking leaders.
The recent Church Growth Research from the Church of England seems to paint a clear picture of the recipe for growth:
I’ve managed to get myself nominated to be on a United Reformed Church task group considering 20-40s. It would seem to be ‘money where your mouth is’ time.
So, what do we need to do to become the kind of church that people in the 20-40s would engage in? What might that kind of church look like? What are the things that really stop people engaging with church? Are they big philosophical issues? Are they relational? Are they about time and energy?
Answers on postcard, Facebook comment, tweet, email, text or more preferably over a coffee…