Pastor and writer Karl Vaters has issued an important 5-point reality check for churches.
In his April 17 article posted at “Christianity Today” Vaters identifies “5 Massive Changes” that he says are coming to your church, or may have already arrived. http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/april/5-massive-changes-coming-to-your-church.html?paging=off
The church needs to pay attention to these changes. They are real and are on our doorstep. If we hope to exercise meaningful ministry in the realities of our current context and into the future, we cannot afford to ignore these trends in our culture.
Here, and over the next few days, are the changes Vaters has identified accompanied by some of his words and my comment.
- The Way People Earn Is Changing
A generation ago, our culture shifted from one income per household to two. Today we’re shifting from one income per person to two.
It is now normal for a person to come home from their job and spend the evening selling items online, doing clerical work or repairing cars for a few extra dollars.
If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon yet, you will. In expensive, heavily-populated cities like where I live this is already the norm.
For years, this was done by power couples wanting to support a lavish lifestyle. Now, it’s being done by average families trying to pay the bills.
Financial pressures are real. In the city in which I live housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable. This financial reality affects not only young people, but their extended family as well. Increasingly, parents find themselves wanting to contribute to their children’s financial stability in ways unthinkable for most families when I was moving out into the world to make my way on my own.
It is simply insensitive and unrealistic for churches to assume that we can badger people for more and more financial support when there are fewer and fewer discretionary dollars available.
Not only is there less cash to go around, there is also growing competition for the dollars that are available to be spent on charitable causes. There is a catalogue of worthwhile and compelling options to gobble up peoples’ available charitable giving. It is no longer realistic to assume that people will direct all their limited resources towards the church.
To make the competition for charity funds even more ferocious, in addition to the traditional large institutional options for giving, today anyone can instantly appeal for money to a wide audience and tug at the heart strings of potential donors simply by going to Indiegogo, Crowdfunder.com, Crowdrise, or Gofundme, to name just a few, of the many online Crowdfunding options available on the internet.
The financial challenge faced by many people today also has an impact on available time. If Vaters’ contention is correct that it now requires more and more work hours to make ends meet financially, the corollary is that less and less time is available for other things. Parishioners are not only labouring under significant financial pressures, they are also carrying a burden of time pressure.
With two adults in a family needing to earn two and a half salaries, there is less discretionary time for families to spend on church attendance, let alone giving volunteer time to support the life and ministry of the church.
Churches must learn, not only to operate with diminished financial resources, but also with fewer available volunteer person hours. Church leaders often say, “We want more young families.” In fact, if we are honest, what we really want is more retired people with expendable income who are looking for productive ways to spend their retirement hours and a meaningful place to donate their money.
Young people have slim financial resources to contribute to the upkeep of churches and even less time to spend on church activities. This is a reality with which we must wrestle if the church is to prosper in our current context.