This article appeared in the July 27 Baptist News Global Blog.
Churches are grappling with Millennials who want their church membership defined in terms of mission and ministry, not names on a roll.
By Jeff Brumley
The value and purpose of church membership is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Baptist and other congregations these days.
And that’s “hot” as in controversial and heated, not popular. And it’s one that occasionally pits older and younger generations against each other.
The debate comes down to this: older folks see church membership as logical and necessary while Millennials and other young people say it makes no sense.
“There’s a lot of generational angst” around the topic, said Bob Ballance, senior minister at Pine Street Church, an American Baptist congregation in Boulder, Colo.
About 30 percent of that congregation consists of Millennials, who see meaningful participation in church life as more important than being on the rolls. Older members sometimes don’t get it, he said.
Wanda Kidd was curious by the phenomenon after speaking to several college students recently. So much so that she penned a blog for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on July 22 as a way to explore the subject and get church leaders talking.
“As I talk to young adults about the value of membership in a local church, there is a real push back,” wrote Kidd, college ministry coordinator for CBF of North Carolina. She said it begs for a larger conversation about what it means to belong to a congregation.
“It seems to be a barrier that these generations cannot cross,” Kidd told Baptist News Global.
‘Affirm their engagement’
Other experts say the membership issue has been simmering for at least a three decades and is now coming to a head with the emergence of the Millennial generation.
And no one is exempt from it, said Eddie Hammett, a congregational consultant and president of Transforming Solutions in North Carolina.
“It’s across all denominations and even the size of church doesn’t seem to matter,” Hammett said.
Differing viewpoints are split right along generational lines, he said. One group sees membership as a critical measure of success, while the other sees it as pointless and even hypocritical because members often don’t attend church.
“They want the church to affirm their engagement in mission and outreach,” Hammett said. “That’s how they define membership.”
It’s increasingly becoming a volatile issue in some congregations, he added.
“This is a defining moment for the future of the church.”
‘A rhythm of life’
And it’s a moment that’s been a long time coming, said George Bullard, a church consultant and strategic coordinator of the South Carolina-based Columbia Partnership.
What Kidd has identified in her blog, Bullard said in an email to BNG, is something that has been happening for about the past three decades in North America that has now become mainstream and is impacting the traditional church significantly enough that “virtually everyone is noticing it.”
Some churches started searching for solutions even 30 years ago, Bullard said.
“The pastors and other leaders of newer, innovative congregations began to talk about the word ‘connecting’ rather than the word ‘membership,’” he said. “They suggested that adults during the first half of their adulthood desire to connect with one or more communities of faith, rather than to be members of one community of faith.”
Even then, before the rise of the Millennial generation, some young Christians were drawn more to “movements of meaning and significance rather than organizations with patterns and habits that appear to be in a rut,” Bullard said.
Churches today need to be equally creative at finding alternatives to traditional membership, said Travis Collins, director of mission advancement for the U.S. operation of Fresh Expressions, an international movement to help churches navigate postmodern culture.
Noting that membership as typically practiced does not appear in scripture, Collins said in some cases improved language may do the trick.
“Some really good churches now talk about something like ‘covenant relationships’ instead of ‘membership,’” he said. “People decide, often annually, whether they will commit to the church’s rhythm of life, to the church’s values and mission.”
Collins said Kidd’s blog is a shot across the bow, reminding churches they can no longer take traditional practices for granted.
‘Not a good rationale’
Kidd said she believes that message will take about 20 years to sink in as churches increasingly come across young people unwilling to sign on the dotted line.
“They want to know what the advantage is, what’s in it for them,” she told BNG. “If you tell them you can teach Sunday school or be on the finance committee — that is not a good rationale for them.”
That’s also what Ballance has found at Pine Street Church in Boulder.
While older adults have warmly welcomed Millennials into the church, he said, occasionally one will express concern that younger Christians are “getting away without being committed.”
Younger people will occasionally complain, too, he said.
“The whole concept of membership smacks of exclusivity and they have no interest in it — but they do want to be involved,” he said.
- See more at: https://baptistnews.com/ministry/congregations/item/30312-young-adults-challenging-traditional-church-membership-concepts#sthash.X43YXTBo.dpuf
As we look back on the last 18 months at Pine Street Church, the changes in our programming are astounding. Most notably, we've opened our curricular Off Broadway Preschool under the direction of Emily L'Hommedieu and expanded the offerings of our Off Broadway School of Fine Arts led by director Cathy Compton through renovating and reopening our facility next door. Our renewed and revamped focus on Creativity and our expanded definition of Community have allowed us to increase the impact of our congregation in Boulder. By embracing the arts not only in our Sunday morning services, but also throughout the whole week through lessons, classes, and special events, we are able to better approach our mission of enriching the lives of our diverse population, regardless of labels that might otherwise divide us. And it just so happens that the physical structure that houses us as a congregation on Sundays provides the perfect canvas for God to help us be Creative by allowing the arts to flourish here the whole week long. This article outlines how many churches are embracing a similar journey... although instead of thinking of the church as a "landlord" for the arts, we strive to create a model where religious and artistic experiences are two arms serving our diverse world together.
Congratulations to our own Pete Sprenkle for his 41 years of coaching! See the story below from The Daily Camera.
Softball: Annual Boulder IDT already misses Sprenkle41-year local coaching fixture hanging up whistle
By Brad Cochi, 06/30/2015
BOULDER — The annual Boulder Independence Day Tournament is a veritable who's who of the national club softball scene.
This year, possibly the Boulder area's most well-known coach won't be in a dugout or down the third base line for the first time in a long time. After 41 years coaching softball, Boulder Stars head man Peter Sprenkle is hanging it up at 78 years young.
"Clearly I'll miss coaching because coaching is teaching and I like to teach," Sprenkle said. "I'll miss the interaction with the girls and their parents. I like taking care of the field and the clinics and the camps, and I may still continue to do that kind of stuff. My wife and I just decided it was time to take a break."
Sprenkle's granddaughter Julia McCue graduated from Fairview High School in May and is playing with his Boulder Stars for her grandfather's final season. For his final summer, Sprenkle is coaching the Boulder Stars in a more laid-back recreational league without the pressures of college recruiting, frequent travel and a playing 100 games or more. Those of his players who wanted to continue playing club at a more competitive level were free to join other clubs.
While his club was still competing at the highest level, Sprenkle has compiled a record of 1,550-761 to date while coaching at both the club and high school level. The Boulder Stars have won multiple state titles and two years ago finished second out of 65 teams at the Triple Crown World Series in Park City, Utah.
"I've had to opportunity to coach with my daughter and I now go to games and some of the opposing coaches are girls that used to play for me," Sprenkle said. "We've won a lot of games and we've won a lot of tournaments. We've done really well. But what I'll miss most is the time spent with the kids."
Sprenkle founded the Boulder Valley Girls Softball Association in 1978 and has since authored two books including "A Softball Coaches Tool Kit." He is also the recipient of several national softball coaching awards.
Boulder's biggest softball tournament won't be the same without Boulder's most influential softball mind.
"Pete and I go way back and he's a good man," Boulder IDT tournament director Dan Burns said. "No one has done more for youth softball in this area than Pete, there's no doubt about that. I'm happy that he was able to do it for as long as he has. He'll be missed, no doubt about it, but he's still going to be around and involved so that's good."
Even without Sprenkle's team competing, this year's Boulder IDT will be littered with local talent with six clubs from the Colorado Stars organization in the mix. Between Burns' Stars Gold 18U team and the five others — CO Stars Sakamoto 18U, CO Stars Rob 18U, CO Stars '99 16U, CO Stars Workman 16U — over two dozen high school players from Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont, Erie, Frederick and other surrounding areas will be playing in front of 350-400 college coaches and recruiters.
Expanding to 216 teams this year, the Boulder IDT will include an 80-team 18-under tournament in Boulder, a 32-team 18-under tournament in Louisville, a 56-team 16-under tournament in Longmont and a new 48-team 14-under tournament in Broomfield. The Broomfield-based Colorado Warriors '01 club will play in the 14-under division.
The Boulder IDT will begin with pool play from Wednesday to Friday. Elimination play will begin on Saturday and end with the semifinals and finals on Sunday at Stazio Fields in Boulder.
Follow Brad on Twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi
As part of Pine Street Church's ever expanding mission to foster creativity and individual expression in our community, our Off Broadway School of Fine Arts provides a variety of lessons, classes, and activities. Help us spread the word about our programming by downloading the poster below and sharing with a friend or neighbor, or posting on a bulletin board. Thanks in advance for your help!
Off Broadway School of Fine Arts
1235 Pine Street, Boulder, 80302
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