Transcript and Footnotes:
“We want you to reach out to young people.”“How do you plan to do that?” “We hired you.”
I have had this conversation multiple times and expect at least a few more in my career. As a clergyperson under the age of 50, that is the primary expectation of being young – that I would have the cheat codes to unlock the secret on getting a younger crowd into the pews.
Throughout my ministry career, I have seen church after church use the same thinking and the same tactics to reach their neighbors. When the first attempt didn’t work, oftentimes, rather than return to the drawing board to ask ‘why?’, they would double down and go bigger.
Truthfully, I don’t believe a young pastor, ad campaign, or any of the other draws we use to get people to church are nearly as effective as the one thing so many churches struggle to do: being an active part of their community. To do that, we have to accept that things may change as our communities change.
Changing our viewpoints on what makes a church successful can be a frustrating – and even painful – process. We all want to be the “it” church in our neighborhood, full of younger faces that insinuate vitality and years of thriving. Young families also bring about lots of transience as fewer people expect to establish long-term roots due to a dynamic job market. So inevitably, reaching new folks may mean this is a process we do all the time! Is your church able to sustain ministries tailored to people who come and go? Can it handle the necessary changes to succeed long-term?
Dynamic communities and constant efforts to reach those communities mean we must be willing to change our tactics, our methods, and even how we understand ministry based on the community that surrounds us. And as society gets more complex and rapid, change is a constant reality. If your goal is to bring people into your church to sustain your history without changing anything, you may be in for some hurt.
Whether we like it or not, ministry requires change. The early disciples transitioned from informal gatherings in public to secret gatherings to avoid being seen. They had to modify how they did things like baptisms and Eucharist depending on where they lived. Throughout history, Christianity has been at its most vital when it is open to changing how things were done.
Because as long as the love of God and neighbor remains unchanged, everything else can be figured out as we go.
To most effectively deal with change, we have to accept some things:
- Changing too many things at once makes it more difficult
- Accept that changing one thing probably means you will change a few more down the road
- People who aren’t invested will embrace the status quo – HARD
To make it easier, there are steps you can take:
- Know your why – why are we making this change?
- Be specific about what needs change – being vague makes decision-making harder
- Your values will help you stay grounded
If you are aware of the pitfalls and embrace the possibilities, change moves from being scary to achievable.
God be with you, friends.
 Ideas adapted from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/202010/what-makes-change-difficult