One of the things on my mind most recently is the concept of collaboration, and how the Church can better harness this synergy within its congregations and in its communities. But my biggest fear is that many churches will continue to maintain hierarchical structures out of fear of losing power and will be unable to adapt to the emerging online world (for lack of a better phrase). Many church structures are steeped in polity, organizational styles, etc. that often don’t allow them to adjust.

In their book, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams state that the Net Generation, born between 1977 and 1996 will dominate the 21st century, and I think that many churches will look around at their age demographics and fail to take this into consideration. Instead of seeing thousands of young people who are wanting to contribute and participate in the Church, seeking a voice to make change, many churches and organization instead will continue to reinforce power and status through hierarchy, outdated ordination requirements, etc. Tapscott and Williams reiterate again and again that those organizations, companies, etc, who fail to adapt and change to this generation will do so at their own peril, because this generation is different.

I wish I had read this book before I wrote my chapter in the soon to be published book The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging and Podcasting for Christ. It seems like I’m gathering more information and finding more sources after my chapter already went to print, but I make the case that youth culture who has been raised in the world of Facebook and MySpace will no longer go through the traditional channels in the Church (i.e. pastors, directors, etc.) to accomplish tasks, get permission or initiate change. Rather, they will see those traditional structures as hindrances to what they can do already online and in their networks. So churches must learn to adapt and innovate along with this generation, and if they do, they will harness a generation that can bring great life and innovation to the Church both locally and globally.

All generations in developed (and increasingly, developing) countries use the Web. Seniors, for example, have time to spend and new motives for going online–communicating with their grandchildren may be the most important. However, a new generation of youngsters has grown up online, and they are bringing a new ethic of openness, participation, and interactivity to workplaces, communities, and markets. For this reason, they merit special investigation. They represent the new breed of workers, learners, consumers, and citizens. Think of them as the demographic engine of collaboration and the reason why the perfect storm is not a flash in the pan but a persistent tempest that will gather force as they mature…

Rather than being passive recipients of mass consumer culture, they Net Gen spend time searching, reading, scrutinizing, authenticating, collaborating, and organizing (everything from their MP3 files to protest demonstrations). The Internet makes life an ongoing, massive collaboration, and this generation loves it. They typically can’t imagine a life where citizens didn’t have the tools to constantly think critically, exchange views, challenge, authenticate, verify, or debunk. While their parents were passive consumers of media, youth today are active creators of media content and hungry for interaction…

They are also a generation of scrutinizers. They are more skeptical of authority as they sift through information at the speed of light by themselves or with their network of peers. Though they have great self-confidence than previous generations they are nevertheless worried about their futures. It’s not their own abilities that they are insecure about–it’s the external adult world and how it may lack opportunity.

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Dan Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, (pp. 46-47)