White flight is usually referred to the mass exodus of whites from cities as they minorities move in. This is slightly different. I don’t know if race has anything to do with this one, but age does. It is the Lay Leadership season where committees gather to figure out who can serve where in the leadership of the church. In the UMC if there is a task to do, there is a committee, policies, and red tape. It is the Lay Leadership’s job to fill those committees with talented people who can create opportunities for God to do wonderful ministry through the congregation.
In my experience (which isn’t much) I have found that there is a Great White Flight that occurs this time of year in the UMC. People who have served for years in committees get tired of rotating from committee to committee. Finally after their heads are white, they are ready to move on. They look to the people who are younger to fill the positions, they feel, they held forever.
Why, after years of church leadership, when hair is white, do they look for others to take over? Are they tired? Do they lack desire anymore? Are they wanting to make the next generation take over? Or is it since they are retiring from everything else in their lives that they are ready to retire from church work as well?
I am sure there is a little bit of truth in all of those ideas but the truth is you cannot retire from Jesus. The church needs people from all generations to form, lead and develop ministries for the church. The church needs their vast experience and knowledge in order to move forward and not repeat mistakes from the past. The church needs the younger ones to move it and lead too with support and grace from those who have lead in the past.
If white hair is upon your head and every committee you have lead, we implore you to continue. Help the church be the best church it can be. Please don’t fly away into the darkness of the back row and Sunday only crowd. We still need you!
I guess our task as ministers is to make sure the over worked maybe understand how we appreciate them and still need their leadership. Maybe we can back them out slowly and into more of a consultant role. Maybe they can mentor some younger people into becoming great church leaders. Maybe a church filled with inner-generational leadership can be the church Jesus calls us to be.