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Watering the roots

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Rapid change seems to be unsettling every corner of the gardens of our lives, including the church (even this Herald has a new look, fresh upon the change in publishing schedule last year!). One of the things that concerns the church is the engagement of young people. Why aren’t they committing to church? How will that affect congregational longevity? How will they thrive without the roots of a religious tradition to ground them?

Seven years ago, James Penner conducted a research project with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to find out why young people were leaving the church. Called Hemorrhaging Faith, the resulting report identified four “drivers of faith and church” to guide those who want to do something constructive in response.

In Waldheim, Sask., pastor Greg Wiens not only read the report, but heeded the advice and implemented it in his ministry. Go to page 10–11 to find out what he learned.

As a follow-up, the EFC conducted a new study of the youth who do stay in church, exploring their reasons for doing so. Renegotiating Faith digs into how congregations can engage well with younger generations in 2018.

Gil Dueck at Columbia Bible College also offers some insights. Some suggest Millennials don’t blossom into independence early enough, but Dueck explains that the sense of rootedness one derives from belonging to a healthy community (i.e., church) is an imperative aspect of identity formation as well (page 12).

Interestingly, the “horse and buggy” Mennonite churches have excellent rates of retaining members into adulthood. So observed a participant at November’s A People of Diversity conference in Winnipeg, celebrating the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada’s 50th anniversary. There’s something about knowing one belongs in a loving community that is more powerful than the possible detractions of wearing archaic clothing styles, eschewing technology, and living in a rural community.

A lesson these friends might teach us is that the best response to the threat of change may not be a five-step strategy, but a slow investment of time, personal capital, and vulnerability into building relationships.

In a similar way, this applies within “institutional relationships.” We need to spend time knowing each other as one great big family of MB churches, scattered across Canada. We have venerable, long-standing churches, some of whom are struggling to find energy and vision for the future, thriving middle-aged congregations, and new church plants, still figuring out their identity (see page 8).

National director Elton DaSilva invested in our institutional relationships by travelling across Canada last fall to hear questions and passion for mission from our churches. You spoke and he listened (page 18).

The Herald is another place to water the roots and celebrate the flowers, where we can hear each other’s voices in print and online and discuss through letters, online comments, and social media.

This is your magazine. We want you to get to know your family here; to fight sometimes; to bear with one another, learn from each other, and offer mutual support.

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