Writing in the Christian Century "Tribal Church" blog, Carol Merritt offers up 10 new models for church in the 21st century:
Ten church models for a new generation
What kinds of communities are working well?
In the Christian Century online, by Carol Howard Merritt
I’m in a lot of conversations about why the denominational church isn’t working. In some ways, I think of our churches like a crop of corn that was planted at the same time. That field produced corn for 50 years—so much wonderful corn that many of us were fat and happy. In our abundance, we forgot to diversify and plant new fields. Now the corn is coming to the end of its season, all at the same time.
In my denomination (PCUSA), 90% of our members are white and most of them are over the age of 60. Many of our churches are rural and many of the buildings were constructed in the 1950s. After 60 years of dutiful service, the structures are too large, too inefficient, and require too much maintenance for smaller, aging members to keep up with. We're ministering in a country where younger generations are much more diverse and many of them move into urban areas. Many congregations plan to cut staff (including the pastor) and hold on to the building until there’s only one person left standing. In fact, right now, half of our churches cannot afford pastors, so it's not difficult to imagine that we might be closing them in the next 20 years.
1) Large churches plant new communities. Using money from a large congregation and denominational funding, a church is planted. That seems to be what happens the most in our denomination, and it seems to be our trustiest default. The problem? It’s usually conservative, evangelical big-steeples who are in the planting business. If a church-planter does not fit that theological mold, she’s out of luck.
2) Multi-cultural congregations. Often churches realize that they can’t connect with their changing neighborhoods, so they start or welcome another immigrant congregation within their existing church structure. This works best when it’s not seen as a landlord/renter relationship, but a mutual ministry.
3) Neo-monastic communities. You can see a list of communities that are connected with the Simple Way. Missio Dei of Minneapolis is a community that I often here about. I’ve also heard Wayne Meisel of the Bonner Foundation talk about wanting to plant 45 Houses of Hospitality. I don’t know too much about this… I’m trying to set up a meeting with him… so I’ll keep you posted.
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