There was a short posting over at RevGals a few days (weeks?) ago that I’ve been mulling over. The posting spoke about how the next generation of church members (30-40’s) are not interested in getting involved in church governance. Some of the reasons listed included timing of meetings (during the day) and certainly were valid, but it got me to thinking….
Might it be that the reason that these members aren’t interested is because of their much touted “distrust of institutions”? I’ve been spending time with some union folks lately and I certainly hear the same concerns from them that we are voicing in the church. I know that I’d love to have more of our 30-40 year olds involved on our Vestry…and I know the Vestry would be delighted to have them join in, but when they are asked, their automatic response is “No, I don’t think so.” They don’t even give us a chance to be dismissive of their ideas, or to tell them “Oh, yes, we tried that before and it didn’t work.” They don’t even give us a chance to say, “We’ll work around your schedule as best we can.” Our attempts to involve these valuable members of our congregation are met with dismissal.
When I speak with the union leaders I know, or the community organizations I hear much the same story. It seems that our younger members could care less about the important work of keeping our organizations going. And yes, I know that maybe they don’t think that our institutions are valuable and important…but so far I haven’t heard them come up with any alternatives. Who, I ask you, will do some of the important work that our civic institutions do…who will speak out on behalf of the ordinary working folk, who will push back against unjust public policy, who will collect the food for the food bank, provide volunteer sandwich makers for the homeless, and all the other things that churches and other service organizations do?
And yes, I know these young parents are busy, but I was busy too when I was their age, I know what it is to juggle kids, daycare, skating lessons, 4-H, a full time job, (actually 2, I was a ranchers wife), but I also found time to sit on several community and church boards. I know what it was to have older members look at me with “that look” and ignore my ideas. I remember the frustration of being told “that’ll never work here”, but I kept on and eventually some of my ideas DID get listened to and tried, and in the meantime I learned a lot about politics and how to “make friends and influence people.”
If we old folks have indeed but barriers in the way of the next generation becoming involved, then please tell us, but if it is simply a matter that they distrust institutions and the present governing structure, please GET OVER IT. We need you to be a part of making change. We know that what we have doesn’t always work as it should, and we’re open to making things better. But we can’t do it without your input. Just sayin’