Young Baptist Leaders Discuss Graying of the Church

Some sixty new-generation leaders f rom the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) met with the LifeWay Christian Resource President to “brainstorm solution” regarding the role of young ministers and leaders in the future of the denomination, January 24, 2005.

According to Baptist Press, the meeting was a culmination of events and discussions that began with Draper’s “frog in a kettle” analogy of the SBC in June 2004. Draper’s column, “Is the Southern Baptist Convention a Frog in a Kettle,” expressed concern for the future of the 16-million member denomination in light of the “lack of denominational involvement and loyalty among younger ministers.”

Following his column, Draper’s e-mail inbox was “flooded” with responses f rom young leaders, and so he began an SBC online message board to allow people to post their concerns collectively. Some 40,000 people have since visited the site and 1,700 have offered their insights since the site launched last November, according to BP.

During the Louisiana meeting, held at the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, Draper was quoted as saying, “I know the problems and you do, too. But what are we going to do about it?”

The “graying” of the church and the loss of young church leadership has been a concern for nearly all Christian denominations. Many of the mainline and historic denominations long-since struggled with this topic, as can be seen in the shrinking attendance rates at once-flourishing seminaries.

Mitch Martin, pastoral ministries specialist at Lifeway, explained there were five main categories of concern related to the shrinking number of youth leadership: missions and evangelism, creative and innovative approaches, convention renewal, diversity and inclusiveness without compromising Scripture, and healthy relationships.

“We don’t come with the answers,” Martin said. “We come with open ears and open hearts for you to talk to us.” [BP]

The young leaders then broke into small groups, where they discussed the aforementioned topics. Draper and other LifeWay staff listened in as the small groups began discussing solution.

“We want them to know we’re listening to them,” Draper said. “We value their input and their relationships and their opinions. We want to help them feel they belong.”

The dialogues will continue throughout June 19, just before the SBC holds its annual meeting.

The next younger leaders dialogue will take place Feb. 28 at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif.

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