I’m reading Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes. Godin packs his small book with pithy observations about the nature of “tribes” and the qualities tribes are looking for in leaders. Although he doesn’t explicitly say this, it occurred to me that a small church is a tribe. Small churches tend to be held together by families, tradition, or both.
Pastors spend a lot of time trying to change the small church tribe into one with more appeal to outsiders. But, if we do, we kill the tribe. Now there are times that tribe might need to be killed, but most of the time small churches serve their purpose well and the members of that tribe are fiercely loyal. But that doesn’t mean that church leaders, pastors especially, shouldn’t be trying to gather a new tribe. New tribes like a different type worship than the existing tribe. New tribes dress casually, while the old tribe dresses in their Sunday best. The new tribe might be younger than the existing tribe. Or, the new tribe might be single instead of predominantly married. You can’t change a tribe, but you can start a new one alongside it.
Years ago Lyle Schaller remarked that “new people need new groups.” Schaller was referring mostly to Sunday School classes for newcomers, but the same applies today to entire congregations. Godin might say it this way, “New people need a new tribe.” I’m going to try this one out. I’ll let you know how it goes.