Many organisations today lament that their membership numbers are not increasing and that bureaucracy, as well as distractions of other commitments, is increasing and consuming their busy members. I found it interesting to read a similar complaint in the 1970 National Committee Minutes of Australian Church Women (ACW) — fifty years ago and just five years after the official formation of ACW.
The minutes recorded that:
A very real problem facing the Working Committee is the fact that most meetings are taken up by purely 'machinery business'. Little opportunity is available for real constructive planning as all Working Committee members are already heavily involved in work within their own denomination and other organizations. By the time the Working Committee attends to matters remitted by the National Committee Meeting and normal work which must be done there is no opportunity for widening the scope of A.C.W. Perhaps this is the task of the National Committee Meeting but again there is the frustration of 'Machinery business' which needs to be done.
Comparable comments appeared in other ACW National Committee Minutes. In 1975, it was minuted:
Regular monthly meetings of the Working Committee have been held since the last N.C.M. The majority of the members of the Committee are also heavily committed to activities within their own denominations and attendance has sometimes been lower than we would have liked.
In 2020, with our busier lifestyle plus all the changes we've had since the 1970s, it is not surprising that the pool for netting new members to organisations is becoming smaller and smaller. As more and more women began to work outside of the home, any spare time available to them became allocated to family and friends, not for sustained commitments to organisations. Often the older members of organisations, who had been more able to attend meetings, began to step up as carers for their grandchildren, when their mothers returned to the workforce. And then more changes came about, as increasing numbers of these grandparents found themselves taking on additional responsibilities for the care of their own elderly parents.
Now we have social distancing and self-isolation to add to the decline of meetings and member numbers. What will these organisations look like on the other side of the Covid 19 pandemic, and how many will still exist? Hopefully, most worthwhile organisations will be able to adapt and even recruit new members.
As noted, in the early years of Australian Church Women, we experienced membership problems but were able to overcome them and grow. This week, the ACW National Executive embraced modern technology and used video conferencing to meet with one another. God willing, we will adapt and continue to meet in whatever forum is available to us.
‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’
Hebrews 13:8 New International Version (NIV)