Being 45 is interesting. I’m old enough to appreciate order (‘this is the way we do it around here’) and yet I still sympathize with the younger crowd (demanding an answer to the question ‘Why do we do that, that way?”)
The problem is both groups are right in what they assert. The Boomers have spent 30 – 40 years learning the ropes of church. Moving to top of the food chain, they’ve waited their turn and now they control the budget or the music or the __________.
The youngers – those revolutionaries – want (even need) things to change. When they don’t, they vote with their feet. They’ve decided to play somewhere else with their time and with their attention.
So, it’s really about the status-quo. Who wants to keep the future looking just like the present? Turns out, the Boomers do. In my church they have exactly the kind of church they want.
Every nation gets the government it deserves. Joseph de Maistre
So does every church. What my church Boomers want is
- to keep the church exactly as it is
- have younger people (especially families) show up and
- play along with them.
The reality, however, is that # 1 dictates that #2 and #3 aren’t going to happen. This is always the case with the status quo. It’s why NHL hockey teams play different in a tie-game than trying to win it in regulation. It’s why there is no longer any cod fishery in Eastern Canada. The reason we like the status quo is two-fold:
- it’s comfortable, knowable, familiar &
- we probably had something to do with making it (we’re invested in it, even loyal to it.)
As Isabel Wilkerson shows in The Warmth of Other Suns, people only do radical things (like The Great Migration) when they’re desperate. Why did several million blacks move from the Old Country of the South from 1915 – 1975? Because they had lived under the very real possibility of lynching long enough. So when northern companies sent undercover hiring agents (officially they were insurance salesmen), that whisper of a better future (economically and culturally) was enough. What started as a trickle before WWI turned into a torrent for the next 60 years.
Like the South, Boomers are trapped by their own established customs and culture. What works for them creates momentum – for them and their status quo. It works against the very people that they want to come however.
Seth Godin puts it this way:
It’s easy to defend the status quo, except when the very foundation you’ve built everything on disappears. Incrementalism ceases to be a good strategy when there’s a cliff on the route.
Here’s the cliff – at least for my church.
We have lots of olderlies (as my youngest used to call them). Older than 50, we have’em stacked like cordwood. Under 50, we’re hurting and in the 20’s & 30’s we’re downright scary.
That’s a picture of collapse – but it’s 10 or 15 years away.
So here’s the question (and the Boomers have to answer it because they have the power to change things):
Are you willing to give up # 1 (how you do things) to get # 2 (younger generations)?
My guess is no. Like those NHL teams playing “not to lose” and the Eastern Canadian fishery before 1992, the status quo is just too comfortable and collapse seems a long way off.