The Next Generation is who innovates for the Next Generation

Who’s going to reach the Next Generation of leaders in the church?–Part I of a series

By Rev. Rick King

Part of my job as lead pastor is to look far ahead at opportunities and threats to our church’s long-term vitality and ministry.

This has been hard during the pandemic, because conditions were changing so fast that it seemed we were pivoting every week in our methods and didn’t have time to envision the future. But the time to do that has come, and late last year, I shared with our Executive Board a couple of threats that we can turn into opportunities if we act on them.

One is building a more sustainable funding model, beyond just pledge income.

The other is identifying and developing younger leadership for the church going forward.

That’s what I want to share with you in a new series of columns inspired by my favorite Canadian blogger-pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, who monitors trends in society and the church more closely than I.

I turned 60 in January, so I’m officially no longer middle-aged. And along with noting the signs of my own aging process, I’m observing the aging process of most UCC churches, including ours.

And the generational differences aren’t what you’d expect. You hear a lot about worship and music style and social media in the press, but it’s also the ways new people relate to and become involved in a church, and the small-group and governance practices that we need to look at and innovate.

Where does innovation to attract the Next Generation come from? Not from Baby Boomers, or even Gen Xers—but at least from Millennials, and certainly from Gen Z (our current youth and young adults).

I commend our nominating team for approaching Ash Koncar to join the Board three years ago, but Ash isn’t the only Next Generation person available. Anyway, they’re starting college in the fall and focusing on the next chapter of their life as a young adult.

The plain truth is, innovation at Falcon Heights Church that makes for a vital future is not going to come from people my age looking into a crystal ball. It will come from actual, younger leaders raised up in our midst and developed as Christian leaders who know the concerns, passions and challenges of the Next Generation.

I’m happy that we have a staff of 30-somethings, because they think differently than I do about many things.

I wonder what would happen if we identified and nurtured a cohort of even five younger leaders in the congregation in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Would we begin to grow, engaging people we never appealed to before, in ways we never imagined?

What do YOU think?

Next week: Why Gen Z and Millennials understand the current culture differently (and better) than those who came before.