Thursday, 17 April 2008

Where have all the young folk gone?

Sounds like a folk song from when I was much younger but it is an interesting question that is being discussed over on Methodist Preacher and Son of the Prophet has given some useful input which made me think of something that had happened around 27 years ago.
The church I was attending at the time had a church anniversary weekend each year which started on Saturday with a concert and then a special speaker on the Sunday (usually a former minister or some dignitary) and then a tea and a rally on Monday evening at which the preacher from Sunday would speak. Part of the rally on the Monday would include the bringing of the gifts from the various organisations. The process for this was that each organisation would come up and put an envelope on a silver salver with the amount of their gift written on it. The person receiving the gift (the most senior local preacher on the plan) would then announce the name of the organisation and the amount they had given and the congregation/audience would clap. Inevitably the bigger amounts got the biggest clap and yet I always thought the brownies may have worked much harder to get their few pounds than the Christmas Fayre committee had to get their megabucks.
In the youth meeting a few days later the sixty or so of us who were there discussed this process and the general consensus was that it was like a lottery and we were very concerned about the level of clapping which seemed to be linked very much to the amounts given, Bigger amounts getting the louder claps and smaller getting quieter.
It was not long after that we had a church council meeting and as I was a representative on this I decided to stick my head above the parapet and raise the issue of the gift process. Was I a silly boy? How dare I challenge the process? I did try very hard to put forward the view of the young people that this event seemed like a lottery and was in our mind like the moneylenders etc in the temple prior to Jesus ejecting them. I then dared to ask why it was necessary to do it like this and then came those words which I believe are the 6 last words of a dying church 'We've always done it this way!' and of course that was the end of the discussion and I believe the beginning of the end for the youth group as people started to go to other churches.
Why is it that those words seem to be brought into play whenever anyone dares to challenge the status quo? Surely we should examine what we do from time to time, look at what we are doing and whether it is glorifying to God. Perhaps the introduction of annual reports will help us to focus and yes it may we develop a corporate plan for our local churches which will give us some aims and objectives for the next however many years. the business I work in has just brought out it's plan for the next three years.
There should as well I believe be room for some compromise from both sides - perhaps in this case a slight shift, perhaps not calling out the amounts but just the organisations and then announcing the total at the end of the evening would have enabled the older folk to keep the recognition of each organisation and let the younger folk see the removal of the lottery feeling. Who knows what might have happened if it had not been for those words - 'WE'VE ALWAYS DONE IT THIS WAY!'

1 comment:

Methodist Preacher said...

I well remember when we had real financial difficulties how hard it was to make a contribution to Church funds. Sometimes we could give a good bung, other times just a few pounds. I was grateful for the privacy.

However you are absolutely right about "we have always done it this way".

We had a sixth form lad do a Church survey as part of his examination. He interviewed the entire Church, even the children, he found that the most commonly used phrase was "we used to" and concluded the lot of us - including me - were living in the past.