It’s the numbers. Specifically worship attendance and offerings. As if they were an adequate and complete indicator of spiritual growth, discipleship, mission engagement in the community or with young generations…including the “nones.” I value measurements but they’re just incomplete. They insulate churches from the hard “think like a missionary” choices desperately needed that don’t quickly contribute to “the numbers”!
The Hard Place
It’s a generation of emerging adults. Hmmm. Let’s be honest! 20’s … 30’s … 40’s too! Negative view of church like we know it. Spiritually disinterested. Regular ministries aren’t going to reach most of them. And, their potential sporadic initial engagement isn’t going to help “the numbers” much!
Parents. Grandparents. Hoping some church in the community where their kids now live will care enough to leave the 99 in pursuit of their 1 and his/her family. Luke 15!
I met Virginia in Sioux City, Iowa. She was our Applebees server. I was explaining 1000 Young Leaders to a retired businessman!
Virginia asked: What are you guys doing? (We’d been chatting with her through lunch.)
“Well, Virginia, we have an idea that many of the people your age have a hard time imagining that God loves them because they haven’t experienced the church to be a loving place. We’re starting to train young leaders to gather folks like you in communities so they can discover how much God really does love them.”
She nodded. She walked away. She returned. Leaned into our table to talk confidentially.
“Into my teenage years, we used to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. All the time. Then, my mom got a divorce and it seemed like we weren’t welcome in church any more. Like no one cared. We finally stopped going to church. I’ve never gone back. I’ve gone through a very dark time. I tried to commit suicide a couple of times.”
Then Virginia asked:
“Is there a group like that here in Sioux City for me?”
My heart broke.
“Virginia, not yet. You’re the only person I know in Sioux City, Iowa, right now. Here’s my business card and phone number. You can throw it away if you wish. Or, call me if you ever wonder if there’s a Young Leader in Sioux City helping people discover that God loves them.”
One more part to the story.
Six months later, a gifted church leader in one of our learning communities heard the story. Found Virginia at Applebees. Asked about the conversation. Flashed the business card.
Virginia, six months later, was still carrying the business card in her waitress apron. Maybe, hoping that the 99 would invest in a Young Leader to reach the 1 that used to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday before her mom got a divorce and they no longer felt welcome in church.
So, you’re leading between a rock (we count the attendance and offerings!) and a hard place (all of the Virginias that have left and need to be found)! Right?
PLI can help.
Pardon my enthusiasm if this sounds like a commercial.
Leadership Essentials will nudge you toward your leadership sweet spot. Churches always benefit when leaders gain more clarity and confidence and courage for taking on their ministry’s greatest challenges and effectively navigating changes.
Senior Leader builds the skill set for adaptive leadership in complex ministries. Building strong teams. Funding multiple facets of ministry
1000 Young Leaders will help you invest in 1 or 2 that maybe still call your church home …but may have even stopped attending and stopped hoping…to become missionary disciples in Sioux City or wherever they live.
So! Put this in front of your group, your team, your board and ask each other next month:
- Do those 2 numbers tell the whole story? What are we not counting that we should?
- If we were going to take on our greatest challenge as a church, what do we as leaders need to stop ducking and start doing?
- Can we find one or two young adults we could invest in that could be sent from the 99 in search of the 1’s?
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