Just before Christmas, the head of my neighborhood’s HOA came by my house. They needed a quorum to vote on some major changes and bless her, she was having to go door to door because some of us were negligent in mailing the ballots back.
Of course, before she left, I got a good guilt trip about not coming to the meetings. She started by complaining about how many years she’d been serving in leadership for the HOA at the same time she was sharing some pretty opinionated information about some of the other neighbors. All the while, trying to get me to come to the HOA meetings, wanting me to be part of this system.
The truth is, I wouldn’t necessarily mind going to the HOA meetings. I care about the neighborhood where I am investing my mortgage payments each month. I have some ideas about things we need to change but I’m not interested in being a part of what she’s invited me to. I know if I go, I will be put into leadership and it won’t be the kind of leadership I feel the organization needs. I know if I go, I will be pulled into all of the neighborhood complaints, all of the people who really have too much time on their hands and so they begin talking about each other. I will be pulled into keeping things the way they always have been, serving the way past board members have served.
Honestly, I think this is often what younger generations feel about church.
Some churches look at younger people as they walk in the door as fresh meat to serve in all of the leadership roles they’ve been serving in. There is little room to bring new ideas or new ways of getting things done. There is little room to say, “Why are we doing things this way?” “Do we really need this many leadership positions?” “Is this really the best use of our resources?”
I do understand this. For a lot of people in our older generations, serving in these leadership roles has been the way they believe they’ve best served God. They were invited from the pulpit to use their gifts, to be good stewards, and serve in these roles. It’s probably true that in previous generations as people flocked to the church we needed as many hands on deck as possible inside the walls of the church to serve those coming in, because they were coming in.
Leaders have to understand that in order to make space for new possibilities, we have to honor the past. We have to honor the person who has been faithfully changing the sign in front of the church each week for years without complaining, we have to honor the person who has been taking attendance every Sunday morning for decades. That is often how they have served God.
But we also have to change the culture of leadership. What is it we are inviting people to? How are we inviting them to serve? A few years ago I was asked to serve on a church committee and was told, “Don’t worry it doesn’t really require much work at all. They hardly do anything.” I, along with many others, would much rather be part of something that requires work but also has depth and meaning to the work.
Younger generations want to know what they are doing matters. So, we have to ask ourselves, does our current church leadership structure really show what matters?