At last week’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), conversations often turned to the question: “Is the end near for our denomination?” Each year the number of affirmative answers seems to increase. I don’t agree. I don’t think mainline denominations are in danger of dying any time soon.
Most congregations say they want to grow in membership and mission—a goal that feels more urgent as the members age. In worship, a person aged 65 is likely to see mostly older people. It’s a good way to feel young at age 65! However, it is not a great sign for the congregation’s future. If they fail to attract new and younger members, many congregations will soon cease to exist.
“Boomers at our church don’t understand how we give.” I hear this from young people around the country. In a striking example of how generations can see things in opposite ways, boomers say, “Millennials don’t know how to give the way we do.” Let’s unpack these conflicting perceptions of millennial financial support for the congregations where they worship.
We live in a society that assumes larger is better. But as Isaiah wrote, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (55:8) Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that Jesus challenged the assumption that larger is better: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jesus’ words point not only to a theological truth, but also to a scientific fact.
Congregations start nonprofit organizations for many worthwhile purposes: to feed the hungry, care for victims of domestic violence, care for and educate children, build health care facilities in distant corners of the world, and so much more. Starting a nonprofit often is the most effective way to carry out parts of the congregation’s mission. However, the relationship between a congregation and the nonprofit it creates can become a tangled mess quite quickly if they lack a clear contractual agreement.
As an advocate for using teams to carry out the work of a congregation and for eliminating as many committees as possible, I often get phone calls like this: “John, we read your book and decided to move from a committee-driven to a team-driven organization. But it hasn’t gone smoothly!” If I or other advocates of teams created the impression that moving to teams is an easy transition, I apologize. The change to teams is not easy, but it’s necessary.