The Doughnut Corps (Or, The Vicious Donut Cycle)

No, it’s not a joke about fatty foods or unhealthiness, but a metaphor. I consider some corps “donut corps” because they have a “hole” – they’re missing the middle age group, most often the 20-45 bracket, though I’ve seen some corps that are closer to missing the entire 18-55 bracket. This is troublesome, not only because it makes for an unhealthy church, but because when the older age group passes away, the church is not likely to stand on its own.

In my last post, “Why I Stay in the Salvation Army”, I wrote about a “staircase” concept wherein people are brought up spiritually by others, and also bring up others behind themselves. I really think it’s a great model.  While many corps have some semblance of this working well, the “donut corps” are in trouble. While age is not a necessary indicator of spiritual maturity, it often correlates. There is a disconnect in a church when those on higher steps of the spiritual staircase can’t relate to those below them. It’s more of a cliff in this case, than a step. When we’re missing such a large age bracket in a church, this can set up the “cliff” problem.

The result can be devastating for the youth. Without discipleship or guidance from someone above them in the church, they may flounder their way through their adolescence in the corps, simply attending programs, but not being fundamentally reared in the principles of God. Don’t buy into an industrial-age concept that our programs will produce mature Christians. Without real, personal involvement from someone on a higher step, these kids will often end up falling away from the Army or the church by the time high school ends.

And this perpetuates the cycle! Without those 18-25 year olds staying with the church, they are not in place to bring up those behind them. Those kids in turn flounder through programs and fall away around the same time again. All the while, the older crowd gets older, until the corps is unsustainable.

It’s really not all doom and gloom though. We can reverse this trend if we recognize our tendency in the Army to shy away from bible study, from spiritual formation, from internalizing God’s word. I would love to see a corps for a year just give up a majority of their programs to simply hold Bible studies and prayer meetings. No band, songsters, worship team, scouts, guards, divisional band, home league, men’s fellowship, jr band, etc.

By investing in God’s word and showing our youth its importance, we can lead them to spiritual maturity. Hopefully through this they can take their place on the “staircase” of the church and bring up those that come after them.

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