“Just tell me the Bible story. I know it sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how complicated this can get. Honestly, I don’t need gimmicks, flash, fluff. If I want entertainment I’ll ask my parents to take me to the movies. I don’t need a Vacation Bible School that “takes me on an Amazon expedition” or involves surfing, camping or clowns. And please, don’t let some random B-rate Bible cartoon video do it for you. I want you to tell me the Bible story. You. Me. The Bible. That’s it.”
Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)
Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…
Then there’s Sandy (enough said)
And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her status
Can I just let out a general ARGH?
Here’s what I think
1. Restart, Rethink, Reform
We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it
Here’s what we should do
a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.
b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)
c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.
d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.
e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)
f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).
g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.
OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings
h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.
We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made
The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)
We say we want young people at church, but how do we make worship accessible for young families (that means the adults and the children) Here is one way
In the first issue of PLGRM, Rev. LeAnn Watkins, rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN, shares how after numerous attempts of increasing attendance of bible studies and other church-related programs, her staff decided to cancel it all – everything during the weekdays except seasonal services. You can hear her tell her story on the Episcopal Story Project. She says, “You can’t chase after folks and expect them to hear you. You have to be in front of them when they are coming toward you. So we’ve tried to ask the question, ‘How do we stop chasing people, and get in front of people?'” I have to say that I ask myself the same question.
Not unlike many churches, I can no longer assume that those sitting in the pews are familiar with Bible stories such as Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale…
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