Last week I talked about how the demographics of Methodism are like a pyramid sinking into the sand.
I promised some answers to the seemingly terminal decline. Here at Hexham Trinity we have seen significant growth in the last ten years. It can be done.
You might expect me to talk as I have before, about the need for modern music. John Wesley’s 1780 hymnbook contained 12 hymns by dead people, out of more than 500. If he couldn’t make a go of it without using contemporary music, why would anybody expect me to able to?
You might expect me to point out that research shows the vital importance of working with children and young people when you want to grow the church.
I could also talk about leadership, courage, risk taking and entrepreneurship.
We know what needs to be done, but most congregations don’t do it.
Instead, I’m going to suggest a completely different strategy. The problem with the pyramid sinking into the sand is that the bottom of the pyramid (the Methodists in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond) is much, much bigger than the top of the pyramid (Methodists in their 20s and 30s).
With the best will in the world, any vaguely democratic institution with this demography, will vote in favour of what’s good for people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. It’s not malevolence, selfishness or stupidity – people in every age group know what is decent, normal and appropriate for church – it’s just that as the generations change, so does that normative view of what normal is.
So even when people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond think they are voting for something which people in their 20s are bound to want, they’re not always right.
My radical solution is for those over 30 to voluntarily give up their vote on any matter to do with church.
This would disenfranchise me at 51 from voting, but I think I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’m not nearly radical enough for the changes that are needed.
It could be argued that those under 31 are inexperienced, immature and might make big mistakes. However, when we consider our performance of halving in membership since 1990, it’s hard to see how they could do a worse job. Why don’t we let them have a go? They will quite likely make different decisions from us.
So what have we got to lose? Our traditions and buildings? They’re going anyway as the church dies.
Am I throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Or did the baby grow up and leave the Methodist Church decades ago, but we haven’t noticed yet?
What do you think? Would you willingly give up your say, that the church might revive?