Research addresses “silent exodus”
Many bicultural Chinese churches are grappling with the issue of the “silent exodus” of Canadian-born Chinese (CBC). This book from Matthew Todd, based on the survey research for his doctoral thesis, is a great resource for pastors, church leadership and lay leaders. It provides insights on the leading factors affecting those who “drop out” and those who “remain in.”
Todd sets out a good framework for his research project with a comprehensive literature review, descriptions of the context of English ministry and key theological considerations. He advocates a retention solution based on an associated parallel independent English congregation model. He further recommends an action plan based on various empowerment and transformational leadership principles.
While the empirical data from the research is valuable on its own, the survey did not include the comparative perceptions of the Overseas-born Chinese (OBC) on this topic nor the general reasons for people changing churches. The latter should be taken into account when considering an optimal English ministry model and a vision for change.
There is no “one size fits all” organizational model. Each church has its unique calling, history, demographics, values and past conflicts. Irrespective of how the English ministry model evolves over time, it is the change process that matters.
I concur with Todd that a prerequisite to addressing the silent exodus is leadership commitment to systematic and sustainable change. That process should respect the points of view of both the CBC and OBC. Todd also identifies relationship as a key retention factor that should not be overlooked when seeking ways to maximize the mission/vision potential of bicultural churches.
—David H. Leung is assistant conference minister for Chinese churches for the B.C. Mennonite Brethren conference.