Generational change driving collaborative turn in Vineyard churches

As younger generations take charge, the Vineyard church, once known for its emphasis on “signs and wonders” and the entrepreneurial style of its pastors, is shifting to a worship and leadership style characterized by democratic participation and collaboration, writes Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today (October). Since the 1970s, Vineyard churches have been seen as the leading edge of the charismatic movement, known for their entrepreneurial and spontaneous style stressing miracles and healing. But with its baby boomers retiring, a new generation of more ethnically diverse and female clergy are taking over and stressing a more democratic style of leadership. “They’re more committed to collaboration, more interested in consensus, and more invested in team,” Silliman writes. “They go slow. They do a lot of listening. Compared to their predecessors, they’re less focused on making decisions and being decisive. They think being a good leader means managing anxiety, holding it to create space for the Christian community to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

Source: Vineyard Church.

Some of this change is related to a wave of clergy abuse cases and claims, which has pushed the younger generations away from the idea that the pastor should be the decider. But the change to a model focused on equipping lay people to share in congregational leadership is running up against an entrenched tradition of strong pastoral authority. “I regularly feel like people just want me to tell them what to do,” one young pastor complains. “We have churches full of people who are just keen to be told what to do. I’m more interested in people doing the work and wrestling with what Christlikeness looks like.” On the other hand, the new emphasis on deliberation and the challenge to traditional pastoral leadership have led some Vineyard church members to become frustrated with pastors being “overly cautious, risk averse, and not bold enough to lead a megachurch in the Vineyard tradition, where leaders just do stuff.” The collaborative turn is even changing Vineyard church architecture and design. Ted Kim, new pastor of the Vineyard church in Evanston, Illinois, is removing the stage from the front of the sanctuary and putting it in the middle of the space, with seats arranged in a circle around it to permit members to see each other and participate more in worship. The stage would also be lower, just a few inches above the ground, to reduce the elevation of the clergy that symbolizes its authority and power.

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