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I have just finished reading a new book by Jason Gardner, Youth Project Researcher of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (and a member of my extended family), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to any Christian as the issues it covers relate to the whole of the church body and the relationships within it, but particularly to those wishing to change and shape church leadership. Below are a few comments;
Jason Gardner begins by carefully examines society and in particular the nature of young people and their relationship to adults over the last 100 years and looks at the changes that have occurred in a measured rather than in a sensational or rose-spectacled way.
He then looks at how the church has mirrored society in its treatment of the young, the contradiction of expectations and the polarisation of church communities. Not just in terms of youth congregations and ageing churches, but in terms of how churches create niche groups by age and how leadership delegates youth management responsibilities (appoint an underpaid, under respected youth pastor to reach and deal with ‘youth’, so the leadership does not have to).
I won’t spell out all the recommendations, but to say that the proposals that Jason Gardner outlines are challenging to the church but necessary to avoid a greater distancing of the generations and ultimately the breakdown of the church. With the external challenges faced by young people in particular, and different role that the church fills in society it is so important that churches can be the one place that generations can be side by side working together for Christ and the Kingdom. Through analysis, practical examples and suggestions, this book makes a positive contribution to achieving this aim.
On a side note, of particular interest to me were his points on parenting, one of which suggested that as parents feel guilty about spending inadequate time with their offspring, the time that they do spend becomes child-focused which does ring true. This can lead to the parent-child relationship being about fulfilling a child’s needs rather that the parent preparing the child for adult life. Maybe I should feel like it isn’t such poor parenting by getting my son to help with the DIY rather than doing something he would choose to do. This isn’t a parenting book, it is just one point that I found interesting.
Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner is available through IVP.
We recently left the church we had been attending for a number of years as we moved out of the area and felt it was right to find a new church rather than to make the trek back. Since then we have been looking at a number of options for a new church. We have been led to join the local baptist church, which is similar in style and substance as the church we were attending but with a much larger youth and children’s work, which suits our growing family.
In order for us to join we need to accept the rules of membership and enter a process of interviews and presentation in front of the church meeting. This is all pretty daunting, and not something we are used to, but we guess is normal in medium to large churches which need to be well-managed. The rules are long and overly detailed but it was a relief to read that, ‘membership ceases upon death’, because the thought of having to continue to attend church meetings while deceased was worrying us.
We are regular long-time Christians who are used to the ways of the church and still find this process of acceptance hard. Have you ever found the organisation or setup of your church a barrier to new people? For instance a Salvation Army church that I visited one summer on a project had a captain and a handful of members but most regular attenders did not enter into membership because it would have meant accepting the rules of that particular denomination which would have meant being tee-total. The setup was a barrier to some people, though it did not appear to matter in this case, as the church was one of the most community active churches I have ever seen.
Several Christian organisations have called on the government to reform the tax system, to ensure the so-called ‘super-rich’ pay a fair amount of tax.
Non-dom status allows the wealthy to legally escape paying tax on earnings abroad. It is thought Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is concerned at how tax breaks enjoyed by an elite group run contrary to a social justice agenda.
I whole-heartedly support this and I don’t think enough Christians in positions of power and influence are speaking up on this issue.
Found via: Ekklesia
It might not seem like a usual choice, but apparently because of the similarity between cigarette papers and the pages of bibles, the same machines produce both. Therefore machines originally produced to make pages for bibles are being switched to meet demand for cigarettes.
There are at least two good reasons to stop smoking. Number one: It may [sic] damage your health. Number two: It raises the production costs for bibles, ASSIST News Service reports. The Chinese craving for cigarettes is responsible for rising paper costs in bible printing, according to the business manager of the German Bible Society, Felix Breidenstein. Because of the rising demand for cigarette paper in China the special thin paper used in bible printing is getting more expensive, as Breidenstein told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The German Bible Society sells approximately 400,000 bibles per year.
Found via: ESV Bible Blog
USA today has an unsurprising survey on the reasons while people change churches. Clearly only the people who changed churches without moving home are worth investigating and the reasons were mixed;
Most of the switchers who changed their house of worship without making a residential move (58%) say their old church failed to engage their faith, or put their talents to work, or it seemed hypocritical or judgemental.
But 42% of the people say they switched because another church offered more appealing doctrines and preaching or the preacher and church members’ faith seemed more “authentic.”
But the writers identify restlessness as the key point. In other words, either ‘I am not getting what I want here’, or ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.
There is some hope though. Brad Waggoner, LifeWay’s vice president of research and ministry development says:
There’s no simple answer why people are so restless … [but] we have a biblical responsibility to care for every person in our flock.
Found via: Think Christian
Previously: Changing churches