My friend recently included me in a facebook dialogue that she started in order to think about how the church might better be the church. Her letter is below. This post will be long, but it is worth it and may turn into a series of posts. Comments are not only welcomed, but encouraged. : ) I pray any who read these words will show me much grace in putting them to paper as I seek to refine the chaos that is often my brain.
I’ve spent much time in recent months deeply in the desert of prayer. I love our church, its people, its mission… its hope. More than anything, I treasure the life giving transformation that happens so often there (my son finding true life, as the most shining example).
I’m sharing a few thoughts I’ve had that would provide a way for us to grow in the blessing of glorifying God through what we already have and do in slightly different ways, as well as a few simple new ways to bring Him glory and us to a more familial place.
The main point here is to begin a discussion with a larger community within our larger “C” Community and gather thoughts and possible volunteers to help us find the steps in our new dance with the Holy Spirit in the diaspora God blessed us with to bring us closer to him in these financially creative times.
Be blessed — in the freedom to know exactly who you are (and are not;-) in the hope and possibility of a God who loves us enough to call us to accountability.
Our church showers amazing love & grace for those well-connected in the church. What of those on periphery, not sure how to get in? Do we have a volunteer base set up for helping them with funerals, like a funeral committee of sorts, to provide for their needs? Bringing lunch, helping with reception after the funeral, childcare, household help, food donations, etc.?
Art Gallery – With so many gifted artists in our faith community, and so much wall space, why are we not celebrating those gifts by hanging them for a month or quarter? (Understandably, given the economic situation, interested artists should pull together a plan for what they would like to showcase, where & plan to invest their own time in glorifying God by setting those on display themselves after gaining approval.)
Events around town section – to encourage our faith community to be present in the world outside of our church walls as a way to carry the gospel they seek to live into the lives of others by fellowshipping in the midst of life??
Not just what we do at our church, but *why* we believe we are called to do it.
What do we aim to teach our children, young adults, varying adult classes? And why?
What are the classes studying now, or planning to study in the near future?
Major theological ideas we celebrate:
What are they??
(Baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation…)
Pertaining to valuable pre-education:
What topics are covered?
Expectations participants should have
What it is that they are doing from a faith perspective, as in bringing their child forth for baptism
Expectations parents (if applicable) should have
The faith community’s role/responsbility in these events, and in the lives of its members
Well, I have no idea how much of this will apply, but below are my thoughts of in response to what is mentioned above. This is my first response kind of deal so there is not a great deal of refinement of these ideas at this point. Anyway, here ’tis:
- I think you hit the nail on the head with childcare. While I don’t have children, I have heard about this dynamic from a few different places. It is frustrating for younger generations where both husband and wife work to be involved in the life and work of the church when there is no childcare available. I think it was a book I read named “Tribal Church” by Rev. Carol Howard Meritt who talked about a church (maybe hers?) where they had child care available whenever the doors were open for any church related “function” whether it is a meeting or a Bible study.
- It seems to me that another area of frustration for both older and younger generations is the inclusion of young adults. In some circles, the young adults are included with the “youth” ministry. While there are definitely similarities in format and so on, the life issues that young adults deal with are significantly different. There are struggles on both sides for sure, but the young adults (and youth) aren’t just the future of the church, they are the church in the same way that the generations that have gone before them are. And they have a lot to share if they are invited not to the table of Christ as passive participants but as people whose thoughts and ideas are validated and put into practice as legitimate ministry ideas. Lack of experience doesn’t mean a lack of good ideas….it just means those ideas may need more support of those who have gone before them.
- Something that has also given me food for thought are the niches of the community that are in need of more assistance. Groups that come to mind: – Single parents: offer free child care – People from other countries: offer classes on English idioms, etc. (these people are often much smarter than we give them credit for becuase they are not always able to put their thoughts into English as well as a mative speaker. But I often ask myself, “Self, can I speak their language?” The answer is always no unless it is French and even in that I am on a 3rd grade level (if that) so I respect anyone who is pursuing a career or education in a language that is not their native tongue.)
- Those with developmental/physical disabilities: It seems to me that it is not just important that these folks are a part of the body of Christ in thought or ideal, but in reality and action. Are these folks attending your services? Are these folks invited to be integral members of committees and serving as deacons who pass the collection plates and assist with communion and other visible events? While many times we feel these folks are disadvantaged (even the term “disability” is not helpful though it is maybe a bit better than “handicapped”), the reality is that in many aspects they are probably much more equipped for ministry.
- Talking about race – Do people in our church (whatever church that may be) feel comfortable talking about race and ethnicity? In an effort to make sure no one was offended, I feel as though I grew up ignoring differences so there was no possibility of offending anyone. This is not helpful. The language we use to talk about race and ethnicity is also not helpful. For those of us white folks, how many know what caucasian is? Most of us aren’t actually caucasian. Not are all of us white folks Anglos either to use another common word. The diversity of humanity is beyond any system of categorization that the IRS or anyone else comes up with. It seems to me that even if we are welcoming of others (whatever “other” is for each of us) in theory, if we aren’t comfortable talking about the differences in perception and aren’t willing to validate another persons way of doing something it is no longer about Christ. At this point it is about how we are doing something and this is stifling to the Spirit and the Body of Christ.
These thoughts both humble and challenge me. Their incompleteness is heartbreaking. And their lack of wings to fly into the face of the status quo are debilitating to me as well as the church.