By Kent Carlson
VP of Spiritual Formation
Multiple surveys and our own personal experience demonstrate the truth that Millennials and Generation Z (people in their thirties, twenties, and teens) are leaving the Church in droves and they are not coming back to the Church as it is currently structured. Almost every conversation I am in with leaders in their forties and older eventually moves into stories of children and grandchildren who have left the Church. They haven’t necessarily left the faith, and more often than not these younger people maintain very close relationships with their families. They have just left the Church.
Understandably, this worries many Christian leaders, and there is much well-meaning strategizing and planning that seeks to attract younger people back to the Church. But much of this is proving to be ineffective. The exodus continues. Perhaps it is time to embrace the idea that the next generation is not that interested in taking over all that their parents and grandparents have created and developed. There is new wine needed and this will require new wineskins. It is the next generation of leaders who will more fully lead us into the dreaming, creating, and developing of these new wineskins. While the wisdom and experience of those of us who have helped build the current structures continue to be desperately needed, one of our main responsibilities will be to make room for younger leaders, a lot of room.
To this end, a task force / think tank of nine younger leaders from all over Canada and the United States has been created. It is called EYELET. Including myself, the current members are:
- Stephanie Fehr, Greenfield Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta
- April Wahl, Century Baptist Church in Bismarck, North Dakota
- Cory Seibel, Central Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta
- Sarah Sciarini, First Baptist Church in Lodi, California
- Carlos Moran, Casa de Luz in Sacramento, California
- Nick Thiessen, Zion Baptist Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta
- Matt Styles, Trinity Baptist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Katie Johnson, Hope Community Baptist Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan
- Mike Anderson, Springside Baptist Church in Springside, Saskatchewan
The name EYELET derives from one of eight initiatives that are being pursued by our conference of churches: to elevate younger leaders. So, this is the Elevating Younger Leaders Team. (We threw in two more vowels to make a random word). It is our hope and intention that regional expressions of EYELET will be developed throughout our conference. Eventually there will be large, perhaps even yearly, gatherings of younger leaders in the NAB who will come together and celebrate what God is doing among us and dream together about the way forward.
The purpose of EYELET and its regional expressions is rather simple. We exist to elevate the voices, ideas, dreams, and presence of younger leaders in our conference. We believe that the way forward as a conference must be more fully and intentionally led by younger leaders. It is younger leaders who will help us create the new wineskins that will allow us to be more fully attuned to how to reach this next generation with the good news of Jesus Christ. Those of us who are older continue to be desperately needed as our conference moves into the future, but our continued leadership must be more and more oriented around making room and unleashing the creative and Holy Spirit-inspired leadership of our younger leaders. If EYELET does its job well over the next few years, more and more of the leadership, dreaming, planning, and activity of our conference of churches will be heavily influenced by younger leaders. Our future demands it.
If you have any questions about EYELET, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.