There’s no escaping the reality that the church needs an injection of youth in its demographic makeup but what can be done to kickstart the generational transition? Trinity College Queensland’s Gap Year and Leadership Programs project officer Simon Gomersall offers his thoughts on the matter.
The stats are in and they’re not good. The 2016 National Church Life Survey confirmed suspicions of a climbing average age in the Uniting Church in Queensland. Those over the age of 70 make up 44 per cent of our church. Only eight per cent are between the ages of 15—29.
A 2013 national census of congregations further revealed that 17 per cent of Uniting Churches have no children at all, with 59 per cent having between one and nine children. These critically important statistics communicate two messages, one directed to our older generations, one to our young people.
To the older generations, we affirm the incredible job that has been done, faithfully executed over decades, in discouraging circumstances, keeping churches open and running, maintaining a presence of witness, worship and service in so many communities. You deserve to be honoured. We thank you.
However, alongside that appreciation comes the call to re-skill. Yes, even at this late stage, the church desperately needs you to do some things differently. We cannot carry on as we always have. We urgently need our older congregations to find intentional ways to equip and empower younger generations to assume leadership of the church’s mission and worship.
Many young Christians I know are incredibly passionate about serving the poor, building community, worshipping meaningfully and sharing faith with integrity, though they don’t necessarily want to run the cumbersome organisation we have created. Nor should they.
Unless the unchanging good news about Jesus Christ is re-contextualised for every new generation it will fail to reach that generation, as our current statistics indicate. They will do it differently. The strategic leadership exercised by older generations must urgently and strenuously pursue a new agenda and question: how do we pass the baton on? Success will mean establishing a new generation of leaders and letting them run their race as we cheer them to the finishing line.
To young people, these statistics urgently implore: please, step forward! Your church desperately needs you to take initiative and get equipped to take God seriously, lead capably, share faith confidently, care for others compassionately and ensure that, as you get older, you are ready to pass the baton to those coming after you sooner than it was passed to you.
Cue the shameless plug for the Trinity College Queensland Activate program: take a year of your life to experience purposeful theological learning in a context of vibrant community, being stretched spiritually and personally, whilst having a lot of fun.
So, young people, it is your turn. It is your time. Be equipped, be courageous, make yourself available, and you will be surprised what God will do through you to reach and renew your generation.
For full details visit activate.trinity.qld.edu.au