In “Leadership and the New Science,” Margaret Wheatley points out that science has linked disorder or chaos with growth. I find this an intriguing idea. Especially when considering the church. Church is where we want order. So much in life is out of control, so much seems chaotic that we want church to be a harbor from the storm. We want order and peacefulness. Worship is at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. There is a familiar structure to what we do (whether there is a liturgy or not). People generally dress in a certain way. All is orderly. Peaceful. So, if disorder brings about growth then I guess it is no wonder so much of the church seems to be dying.
But what really provoked my imagination is to consider who in the church is the greatest agent of chaos? Who is a source of disorder? Young mothers and fathers ought to be able to answer this one in a heart beat: our children. And if disorder brings growth and lack of growth means death than who is one of the greatest gifts to our church? Again: our children. Now in a way this is nothing new. People have often thought a lack of youth in a church is a clear sign of its impending demise. What is different here is the reason. Children are not necessary to the life of a church because old people will die sooner and then no one will be left. Children are needed for the gift of chaos that they bring. Children are just learning the rules of order. They will natural break those rules sometimes. Older youth will consciously resist those rules. We need them to do this. Otherwise there will be little or no growth.
Two caveats are important here. First that I do not mean to say that it is impossible to grow without children. I can think of one congregation dear to my heart that is in a position where numbers have declined to the point that the old order of things will soon become impossible. There is some chaos for you. No children required. A congregation could also choose disorder for the sake of growth.
The second caveat is of utmost importance: when I say growth I do not mean numerical growth. I have come to believe that the church might well be better off if we adopted a new commandment which read: “Thou shalt not take attendance!”
Maybe I am biased. The importance of young people is a topic dear to my heart. Yet when a little girl is crying real tears because she doesn’t want to go to church, maybe it is time to admit something is wrong. Maybe it is time to admit we need a little disorder.