Who knew Bob Dylan would be the sage of such great wisdom? Listen to the words from his famous song, The Times They Are A-changin (1964):
“As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'”
This song came to mind twice this week. First, I celebrated another birthday. I noted to my wife that for the first time in my long life, I did not receive one birthday card in the mail – not even from a business! But I did receive multiple kind thoughts and well wishes from many relatives, friends and businesses through the new Hallmark –Facebook.
My next intersection with Dylan’s wisdom came while doing my research this week. A regular research site presented this headline, Can Facebook Replace Church . It seems that Mark Zuckerberg believes “the days of institutions like ‘churches and Little Leagues’ are over.” Zuckerberg suggests that his service can build communities of people that will serve the same purpose.
This is certainly a gigantic oversimplification of the purpose of church, but coming so soon after my birthday experience, I am not so quick to dismiss the thought. The author discusses the reality of the Dones and the Almost Dones. As current research would indicate, the old rule of thumb no longer applies – they are not coming back. The author says it this way, “… if the church doesn’t figure out how to create community they are seeking, someone or something else, like Facebook, will do it for them.”
The author goes on to present the opportunity that churches have before them. “They are seeking a place where they don’t have to dress up, where they can ask questions, where people know who they truly are. They want a place to grapple with the hard stuff, out loud, with others. Face time, not necessarily Facebook.”
As church staff and leaders, we are called to respond to this challenge. We cannot sit back and assume that all will be well. Think Sears. It is time for our wisdom and creativity to emerge. We must take a hard look at how we are engaging our past, current and future members. As we evaluate and plan our ministry, we must shed what is not working while retaining the core of who we are as church. It is not a time for the meek, but for bold leadership that can accept the times they are a-changin and respond with welcoming and engaging ministry that will attract and build the faith communities that people are seeking. As the author challenges, “Get rid of the extras and put our focus back on what matters most — Jesus and relationships.”
The Center for Parish Leadership is available to assist you in this challenge. Please contact us to discuss how we can work with your staff and leaders to prepare them for these important challenges. If you would like to read previous Weekly Research Updates, you will find them on our new website blog.