For every thriving spiritually healthy local church I know of, there is a handful in close proximity that are struggling. The unhealthy struggle I’m seeing with some church families is that they are rapidly growing older and smaller, rather than slowly growing younger and somewhat larger. That’s not an encouraging word, but it is an ever-present reality.
As a church leader, I struggle with accepting this observed reality of too many local churches. I want to fix every unhealthy church family I find and I do pray for them to begin the necessary changes before it is too late. Alas, some cannot be fixed and some do not want to be made whole.
Let me further explain my burden and prayerful desire. We have a church-wide dilemma in America, which demands that we lift our collective heads out of the sand. The need is for intentional leadership. By the time you read this, even more of what I’m about to describe will be true.
The statistical (demographic) studies that I have read over the past five years, as well as my personal experience, indicate that our current plight could get worse before it gets better. What’s the big deal? We are in the midst of a HUGE demographic shift.
Currently, the biggest group in the local church is that large segment known as the Baby Boomers. It’s predicted that by the year 2035 that they could be the smallest group in our local congregations. Generally speaking, this group has been the financial backbone of the American church. They learned generosity and by the size of some of our buildings and acreage holdings, it shows. If over the next eighteen years these Boomers are leaving us for long-term care and Heaven, what will be the fiscal impact upon the local church and our outreach efforts?
Currently, in most church families, the smallest age group represented is known as the Millennials. It’s possible that by the year 2035 that they could be the largest group in local congregations, provided we continue to reach them with the Message of Jesus Christ. However, if we look at trends, their giving patterns are not the same as their parents. They love Jesus and their church family, but they are not as impressed with buildings as past generations of believers. Perhaps they’re onto something.
There is a question that all present leadership must ask. Have we reached enough of the Millennials and their families to account for the empty seats and needed influence in our very near future? Also, I’m concerned that there are not enough Millennial believers ready for the leadership roles that will be thrust upon them. Have we been intentional in our efforts to grow, develop, and qualify future leaders?
This is not a plea for money. Yet, I have often heard and subscribed to the statement, “money follows ministry.” If this is true, then we could be missing the mark. In many American Christian organizations, approximately 75% (and higher in many cases) of all giving goes to meet salaries and building expenses. That’s probably not the stewardship example we want to teach. It’s truly time that we wake up and divert more time and treasure into the talented Millennial believers who will become our future leaders.
I’m convinced that the present reality of any organization is a direct reflection of her past and present leadership. However, I also believe in a future that is brighter than the described reality. The length and severity of our struggle are dependent upon how greatly we cooperate with His Spirit. Leaders must seek Heaven and be led with wisdom from above.
We will make it through these challenging, changing times and come out better. These changes are in fact a thrilling opportunity that we need not resist. We can embrace them as we hold to God’s unchanging hand.
My prayer: “God give us leaders that have an understanding of our changing times and know what we ought to do. Lord, I’m asking you to give us more servant-hearted leaders with a Kingdom first mentality to lead us intentionally through these changes. God, help me to be this kind of leader and if I cannot be, please give me the wisdom to step aside. In Jesus name.”