I’ve written elsewhere about the current rage for church planting, and I noted there that many young leaders have little interest in leading an established church. Without affirming them, I list here several reasons I’ve heard often from a generation shying away from established, older churches.
- They’ve seen too many leaders fall. It’s true that even young leaders fall (and the Internet is broadcasting those falls these days), but too many other young leaders have seen failures in the established church in the past. It’s difficult for them to separate those churches from the fallen leaders who previously guided them.
- They remember church splits. The rudeness of church business meetings still rings in their head. They haven’t forgotten the anguish of their parents sometimes caught in the middle of a church fight. Yesterday’s scars affect today’s commitments.
- They don’t like church bureaucracy. Taking several months to move a request through multiple church committees makes little sense to a generation raised with instantaneous access to the world.
- They’re not fans of music done poorly. I hesitated including this reason, but I can’t ignore it. The value of good hymns notwithstanding, young leaders with continual media access know when music is done poorly. They dread a steady diet of that in a church.
- They lean toward a plurality of elders church polity. Not everyone agrees with this approach, but those who do agree wrestle with seeking a church led through a single elder leadership model – as found in many established churches.
- They’re often undiscipled products of those churches. They know experientially what it’s like to come from a church with a poor discipleship strategy. That “bad taste” makes it hard for them to imagine ever shepherding such a church themselves.
- They have little interest in big buildings. They prefer the intimacy of a small group. They question the legitimacy of a congregation that doesn’t know each other. And, they don’t like church debt (though they may themselves carry much college debt).
- They think theologically, and they too often remember churches that did not. Some young leaders, of course, become such theological zealots that they fail to remember their church fairly; however, many rightly recognize the weak theological foundation of some established churches.
- They fear legalism. They occasionally err themselves by flaunting their Christian freedom, but they have a tendency to view established churches through a “thou shalt not” lens.
- They’ve been introduced to many strong congregations. The Internet has made it possible to compare any church with what appear to be healthier, better-known churches. Some of these churches are also established congregations, but they just “feel different” to a young generation of leaders.
What do you think, younger leaders? How do you respond, older leaders?