Find, fuel, and fund the next generation of leaders

Reaching the next generation of leaders in the church: Part V in a series

By Rev. Rick King
Aug. 11, 2022

If we want to be different, we need to think and act differently.

And few things help us to think differently than a continual influx of new people.

Sure, some will say we need a quantity of new people: they say the older generations—people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s—who made this church what it is are dying or are less active than they used to be.

But new people in a congregation also make a qualitative difference in the local church: different worldviews, demographic distinctiveness, formative experiences, values and priorities. The Spirit can use all of these to breathe fresh life and a new spirit into a church.

And a relationship with a local church can make a qualitative difference in the lives of new people, too.

Lately, I’ve been writing to you about the dearth of younger leaders in our church, and in the United Church of Christ generally. Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian pastor, trainer, podcaster and blogger I follow online, believes older leaders (he’s in his 50s, I turned 60 this year) need to step out of the way of younger leaders and INTO a supportive role with them.

I don’t see a whole lot of open resistance to younger leaders among older leaders in our church. Thanks to the work this church has done through the Discovery Teams process, our year in the Crossroads cohort of MN Conference UCC’s seeking revitalization, and all that pivoting we did during the pandemic—our system is remarkably open to change.

But what if we cultivated relationships with new people, created low-demand, community-building gatherings, and invited people to come? For example, Katie and I have been talking about our church starting a community meal open to anybody—a gathering place for people to discover each other, satisfy their hunger for community, and stave off food-insecurity for another day. Another idea is a storytelling night, à la The Moth or TEDx.

What are some of YOUR ideas?

What would enable us to FIND the next generation of congregants by being who we are while doing something different, then FUEL their enthusiasm and development as leaders in the church, and even FUND their formation and launch of new ministries?

I wonder what would happen IF…! Don’t you?