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Passing the Church Onby Duane Mabee on June 13, 2018
Some of you will remember radio pastor Donald Cole who spoke on the Moody Radio stations for many years. Karla and I had the privilege of working with him one year during a Moody Radio fund raising event. OK, that may communicate more than intended. Pastor Cole was broadcasting from the same studio where we were answering phone calls.
Something Pastor Cole said has stood out to me for years. At that time, Pastor Cole was an elderly man. In an on-air conversation, he mentioned that people sometimes asks whether he likes the more contemporary music the station was playing. His response was priceless. “When people ask me that,” he said, “I always reply, I may not like it personally, but I have to ask, ‘Is it reaching my grandchildren’.” That was keen insight.
Many of the churches in our district were once thriving ministries but are now closed. As a result, I am often asked what I think happened. I believe what happened is they failed to transfer their ministry to the next generation. They never asked Donald Cole’s question. Instead, as Lee Kricker writes of his own church, “We had been building our church around this unspoken assumption: ‘If it was good enough for me, it is good enough for our children.’” Given the failure rate of churches to reach the next generation, that just won’t work. Churches everywhere need to be asking “What will it take to reach the next generation?” and then structuring to make it happen.
In his book, For a New Generation: A Practical Guide for Revitalizing Your Church, Kricker states that a church that is effectively transferring ministry to the next generation is “a church with attendees whose average age is at least as young as the average age of the community in which the church exists.” If that is the case, the average age for North River should be 41.69 or younger. I’ll let you do the math. Kricker continues, “I define the next generation simply as those who are younger than the average age of the community in which your church exists.” I would add, as does Kricker, that a healthy church is one that has a good diversity of ages, not one that is primarily made up of one age range no matter how young that age might be. It is exciting, and everyone benefits when the generations share ministry together.
One of my passions is to appropriately and effectively transfer the ministry of North River to the next generation so that it does not die out with my generation. I want this church to continue having a significant impact on the advancement of Christ’s kingdom long after I am a distant memory. To do that, we need to start asking and answering the question, “What will it take to reach our children and grandchildren?” We cannot afford to assume that “If it is good enough for me, it’s good enough for them”. So, are you willing to ask that question with me?