Churches Shift Expectations in Droughts

This series of posts is based on the metaphor of a drought, which was introduced previously. I think churches are facing a prolonged drought because of changes in beliefs and values of Generation X, the Millennials and Generation Z. Just as agricultural operations adapt in droughts, I’m convinced churches can do the same.

Just as farmers to make adaptations to raise crops in droughts, so churches should adapt how they recruit and deploy people to serve in congregations. Neither are easy. Both are essential for the future.

In the early 1900s, industrious farmers clear cut fields, seeking to plant crops on every 8191524030_f194afe4bc_zinch of available soil. While this left the land susceptible to erosion of top soil, the losses were acceptable.

Then came the drought. The wind whipped tons of unprotected topsoil into the air, creating clouds of dust that were swept thousands of miles away.

Farmers adapted. They planted rows of trees along fields to protect the soil from wind erosion. They terraced the land further reduce erosion. This helped bring Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas out of the Dust Bowl.

Programs and ministries are the topsoil of churches. These are drying up due to a lack of people to serve. It’s time to adapt how churches move people into service.

Historically, churches elect members to serve on boards and committees. Members are expected to serve because the church needs these boards and committees to function. The members are required to serve a term of two or three years, with an unstated expectation they will serve a second term.

Today, the eldest of Generation X are in their 50s. The youngest of Generation Z are just graduating high school. The entire Millennial generations between these extremes. When asked to serve on committees or boards, representatives of all three generations are telling churches:

“You have fun with that, because we’re not interested.”

It’s not that these generations have no interest in serving. It’s that these generations have no interest in serving institutional needs. They want to serve causes. The want to meet real needs.

In addition, these generations are averse to long commitments. This is why a wide range of business – from cable television providers to fitness centers – have stopped requiring long term contracts. If Gen-Xers and Millennials won’t sign up for a two-year cell phone contact, they likely also won’t commit to two years on the Board of Education.

Finally, even if an organization supports a cause important to these generations, they need to trust the organization. This is why transparency matters so much to Generation X and Millennials. There are seemingly limitless opportunities to participate in causes. Trust in the organization is one of the ways they determine with opportunities to accept.

Churches adapt to drought by shifting their focus. Instead of starting with the church’s field-2787294_1280need, the congregation starts by asking how the younger generations want to serve. This can mean starting new ministries that interest the younger generations and meet congregational needs.

Churches also adapt by forming multiple short-term action teams to handle traditional ministries. Instead of asking people to serve on the Board of Stewardship, the stewardship chair could ask five members to serve on a team that will serve for three months designing and implementing a stewardship program.

After leaders from younger generations have served on multiple short-term action teams, start to approach them about serving as a leader of a ministry or program. Just make sure you clearly articulate how making a longer leadership commitment could make an eternal difference in the lives of those involved in the ministry.

What opportunities does your church provide for people to provide short-term, high-impact service? Share about them in the comments or shoot me an email.

Addition posts in this series include:

Finding the Right Metaphor for Churches Today

Churches Learn to Irrigate in Droughts


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