I'm hearing it on both sides of the aisle. Old people are complaining that young people aren't getting involved. Young people are complaining that they're not being given a chance at leadership. And young people are leaving the church in droves.
My solution: get all of your young people to start coming to your church board meetings.
So, it turns out, that the Adventist church doesn't have anything in its church manual that prevents church members from attending board meetings. Wherever I've asked, any member in good standing can attend a church board meeting, can speak with permission of the chairman, but cannot vote.
This is really good news. Here's five reasons why coming to board meeting is the solution to your youth attrition problem.
1. It makes them look smarter
When a young person attends a board meeting, and they have something really wise to say, they can speak up and they sound very intelligent. When there is a controversial topic, they aren't allowed to vote, and can therefore never have to take sides.
2. It changes the culture of your board
I also believe when young people or guests attend board meetings, some of the drama and cynicism that usually accompanies board meetings is mitigated. In the same way that young couples avoid conflict when they have company over for supper, I think board meetings are more civil when young people are there.
3. It's a non-beaurocratic, low-pressure way of installing young adults into leadership
I've also noticed that when young people come to board meetings, after a few weeks, positions of responsibility are delegated to them. The church has a special project, the board asks for volunteers during the meeting, but most of the "official" board members are too busy with other things. The young adult guest raises their hand, and everyone excitedly thanks the guest for their enthusiasm and willingness to support the cause. They don't have to go through the nominating committee, they don't have to have their name listed in the bulletin. They just get put in charge of stuff.
4. It's a natural way to disciple young people
One of the cool things about this model, is that it gives twenty-something-year-olds an opportunity to gain experience from those who have been around the block a few times. If you want experience in handling finances, Robert's Rules of order, how to prepare an agenda or take minutes, how to be diplomatic, being in the loop with what's going on in your church, all you need to do is come to the church board. It's a cool way to disciple young people. According to the church manual, it's the primary function of the church board:
Included in the church board responsibilities are: an active discipleship plan [...] spiritual nurturing and mentoring of members. [...] the gospel commission of Jesus tells us that making disciples, which includes baptizing and teaching, is the primary function of the church. It is therefore, the primary function of the board.
5. It's free!
The neat thing about this solution is that it doesn't cost any extra money. It doesn't require any extra time on the pastor's part, or on a youth leader's part. It is a program that literally every church already has in place. It's something that the church should already be advertising, and encouraging it's members to do. All that is needed is for young people to show up.
So the next time that you hear somebody complaining about our young people leaving the church, try inviting them to a board meeting. Explain to them some of the benefits I listed here, and see if they'll come.