How Do We Save Quakerism?

Are your Meeting’s numbers dwindling? Do you worry that there won’t be a “next” generation to pass Quakerism on to?

Are your Meeting’s numbers dwindling? Do you worry that there won’t be a “next” generation to pass Quakerism on to?
You aren’t alone. As I’ve traveled the country visiting different kinds of Quaker Meetings, I’ve noticed that many Quaker Meetings are holding a similar, underlying anxiety: what’s next?

Of course there are Meetings that don’t fit this categorization, but if you are one of those Friends who holds a concern for the future of the Religious Society of Friends, read on.

Step 1: Ask Ourselves, “What Are We Trying to Save?”

As someone who gets most excited about Quakerism when I think about the Early Friends, I believe that the litmus test for whether we have life is the fire and Spirit that motivated the emergence of the Quaker movement.

Not our finances. Not numbers or attendance.

So what are we trying to save? Is it our Meetinghouses? Our institutions? Our annual gatherings? Our Quaker employment?

Or are we concerned about God’s vision for the world and the Quaker contribution to making it real?

Step 2: Hone Our Quaker Superpowers

mary-dyer-quaker-statueThere are reasons that we know the names of specific Quakers in history; it’s not just hero worship.

Early Friends understood that the Spirit manifests powerfully in individual gifts, and the usefulness of a structure is the extent to which it helps individuals to cultivate, ground, and set free their personal ministries.

I just love the image of Elias Hicks coming to town and everyone in town – not just the Quakers – gathering to hear this powerful minister preach. Whatever that looks like today, I know it can happen again.

Our ministries used to draw crowds. And they can again.
Our ministries used to draw crowds. And they can again.

Step 3: Get the Circulatory System Running Again.

As I’ve been talking with Friends about the concept of ministry, one analogy has struck me: ministers are our circulatory system. When a Friend who is on fire with the power of the Spirit comes to our Meeting, we are given oxygen. We are given life.

What does a body look like without a circulatory system?


…but it doesn’t have to be that way. Quakers have a historically strong practice of identifying, training, and releasing ministers. We know how to get the circulatory system running again. And it’s not too late to bring it back.

Step 4: Support the Friends Who Are Already Working On This.

I have been blessed to help support the birth of the Releasing Ministry Alliance, which aims to get the blood flowing again in the Religious Society of Friends. This project is literally a dream come true for me.

I hope you’ll take a moment to wach this video:

As Lola says in the video above, this resource is past due. You can’t imagine how much I wish it was around when I was seeking support for my last project. It is high time that Friends found a way to use the internet to explore new kinds of life in our ministries.

Over the past several years, I have seen Viv and Lola approaching the hard work of launching this resource with tireless dedication and faithfulness. I trust them to do it right.

I hope that you’ll join me in supporting them to get this essential project off the ground.

9 thoughts on “How Do We Save Quakerism?”

  1. The word ‘Quakerism’ makes me wince. We are nor an -ism! We are the Religious Society of Friends, Friends of Truth, Friends with Christ and each other, written on one anthers’ hearts, Friends of all, living according to the laws of Love and Trust. That is what I hold worthy of effort, to keep that sense and Spirit alive. Tinkering with organization and structure is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Unless God builds and maintains the house, we tinker in vain with it, so we need to listen carefully, alone and together, for what the Light shows us and the Voice instructs us.

  2. Well put, Ellen! And thank thee, Jon Watts!

    I often wondered why I seem so out of the loop when “structural tinkering” comes into the picture… Seems to happen here about once every 20 years, never mind what the Spirit of the Living God might wish.

    The inward direction I most often get is “get real, and follow the way of the LORD… starting with loving the LORD with all one’s being, and neighbors — all of them — in like fashion.

  3. Thanks so much, Jon, for the endorsement of Releasing Ministry Alliance, for your videography, and for your financial contribution!

    We invite others to visit to learn the latest about the start-up campaign.

  4. As long as large parts of Quaketism continue to be anti-gay, it is doomed to stagnation and decline.

  5. The early Friends were on fire because they had found a specific something, the same something that had set the apostles on fire before them. Arguably, the specifics of what they had encountered had a great deal to do with the fact that they then caught fire. If we in our day are not similarly on fire, it just may be because we have not drawn close enough to that something.

    To anyone who reads the writings of the early Friends closely, it eventually becomes clear that the majority of us today do not use terms like “the Light”, “the Spirit”, and “Truth”, with the same understanding that the early Friends brought to those terms. And those were the very things the early Friends were incandescently impassioned by!

    Somewhere in there, perhaps, we might find a clue.

  6. In addition to touching the fire of Spirit, Early Friends and Early Christians (perhaps, most prophetic communities) practiced mutual practical and spiritual support.

    My prayer is that Releasing Ministry Alliance will help spread all of these blessings. I’ll add that the Alliance will only do so if we participate in doing so. Thanks to all who do!

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