The age of your church is one of the determining factors in the culture your church lives under. Some churches are old but operate young, some young churches operate old when they should be the opposite. Here’s what I feel like I’ve seen as the trend in the life-cycle of the church:
Young churches - move fast and furious. They can barely keep up with the growth. Whatever happens … happens. Just don’t let anyone get hurt and get the release forms signed. The rapid growth and excitement offers up plenty of forgiveness for mistakes. Momentum makes up for lack of policies and procedures.
Teenage churches – not quite as reckless as they were in their younger years, but still moving and shaking. The growth is starting to slow, but passion is still high. Resources are stretched to a maximum so fingers clench a little more tightly to territory. A few policies start to pop up, a few procedures come out of necessity.
Older churches – this is the maturing stage – where the leadership really begins to play with red tape. People have been burned by double-booking rooms, others are tired of the carpet in the senior center continually getting cigarette burns in it. Policies are made and ruthlessly enforced. Then more policies are made. Hidden policies are made that you only find out about when you break them.
Old church – traditions, “the way it has always been” and comfort are primary drivers typically in this age of church. The mere mention of something that could go wrong warrants and immediate and sweeping policy cemented into place for the next 10,000 years or until the Lord returns, whichever comes first (Lord, come quickly). There is still passion, plenty of room for growth – but change is difficult because of entrenchment.
This isn’t a perfect description of the church – would love to read in the comments how this is spot on or way off about where you serve students. But here’s the kicker: it doesn’t matter what your church’s age is! It might be good to realize what you’re facing and how you can navigate but you are called to serve Jesus Christ right where you are at no matter how much red tape you must wade through, so do it!
Love God, love students. However old your church is this year.