The popularity of home renovation shows has brought an important building concept to the attention of lots of people—load-bearing walls. As they tour a house, eager owners and confident renovators brainstorm ideas for transforming the space. Plans often focus on removing walls, but the cost of the project depends on whether targeted walls are crucial to the building’s structure. That is, they are load-bearing. Such walls can’t be removed without devising another way to carry the load.
This concept of load-bearing is a helpful way to think about how people function in a church. In the excellent book, Growing Young, Kara Powell and her Fuller Youth Institute co-authors use this idea to illustrate one trait of churches that connect well with young adults. These churches purposefully involve young adults in load-bearing roles essential to the community rather than in expendable jobs. By doing so, these churches often achieve higher levels of commitment because people are more likely to prioritize work that they see as important and fulfilling.
In addition to young adults, load-bearing roles would likely appeal to those of other ages, too. Church leaders would be wise to think in these terms and encourage people to involve themselves more deeply to the shared work God has called that congregation to do. People like to feel needed. Assigning load-bearing roles to volunteers is not without risk, but few significant things are. Most people will rise to the challenge if they can see the importance. Those who disappoint in the short-term might eventually learn that they can’t grow as a disciple as a passive observer.
Who in your church is ready to take a load-bearing role? What can you do to ensure that they have one? You might need to create something new (or let something go) to provide the right fit. As you help people find their load-bearing roles, you may be surprised at what God chooses to do through your church.