"Church can't and won't look like it looks today."
That's Rev. Corbin Tobey-Davis, Associate Minister at Parkview Congregational Church in Aurora (and Program Director of the church's ROCK Center) on the UCC's Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI).
NGLI is a developmental program for young pastors within the UCC that focuses on building the church of the future, rather than trying to figure out the future of the church.
As Christians, a large part of our faith centers around our relationship with Jesus. But, as Rev. Ben Konecny points out, "the Historical Jesus alone doesn't always activate people's faith."
Congregational Church in Greeley, where Ben serves as Associate Minister,
he focuses on understanding family systems within the congregation. NGLI's influence plays a huge role here. Along with fostering energetic young clergy who will
push the church forward, NGLI wants to help young clergy understand why the
church acts the way it acts, and how to have healthy conflict.
|Rev. Ben Konecny|
I asked both Konecny and Tobey-Davis the same question they hear all the time: "What is the church going to look like 10, 20, 30 years from now?" Both Tobey-Davis and Konecny feel that, in a way, this is a flawed question. We can anticipate some changes due to technology and generational differences, sure, but "the church of the future" will look extremely different for each community.
"You can't necessarily write a book about pushing church forward and replicate it across all churches," Tobey-Davis explains. "A praise band won't work in every church." In the NGLI program, Ben and Corbin are both interested in which risks to take in their respective churches, and which successes or failures might result. But, what might thrive at Parkview might very well crash and burn at First Congregational, and vice-versa.
No matter what kinds of revelations and peaks result from the NGLI program, it's interesting to
imagine what our churches will look like when their head pastors will have been born in the '70s and '80s. It must have been equally as
shocking and exciting when baby-boomer pastors stepped in for their
|Rev. Corbin Tobey-Davis|
No matter who is leading the church, every community needs new ideas to keep from growing stale, and new generations of clergy will bring these new ideas in spades. To think even further down the road, 40 years from now, pastors who were born in 2015 (!!!) will be doing things in churches that we never thought feasible. "Church is an evolving organism," Konecny says.
Tobey-Davis agrees. "There's a fallacy in applying old models of problem-solving to new problems," he says. Symptoms of our problems might look the same (stagnant membership, maintenance issues, sluggish revenue, etc.), but the resolution to these issues is going to be much different in 2025 than they are in 2015.
One way NGLI is helping to strengthen our church is by focusing on the unique gifts of pastors. There's some nuance there; we're not talking about letting the pastor do all the fun stuff while passing off the business items onto some unfortunate Office Manager. Instead, the idea is that if a pastor can spend more time developing their strengths instead of compensating for their weaker areas, they'll be that much more able to do what they do best, and lay-leadership will organically fill in the leadership gaps.
To learn more about NGLI, its mission, and how to apply, please visit their website!