The Token Young Family

“It’s exhausting being the young family in a church” This sentiment was shared to me by one of our “young families” about what another “young family” told them.

Its exhausting. Of course, I speak from the “young family” and “pastor’s family” congruently, but I know what they mean.

1) Getting the schedule

I’m not sure if it was just very different for families back in the day when our older members were young, or if they’ve forgotten just how crazy it is, but there is some kind of generational divide between what people think young families’ schedules are like and, well, reality. Events that seem easy are actually not. Babysitting is not considered (nor the lead time needed to get a babysitter) and the whole, I have to work for a living is similarly forgotten (which is ironic since I work for the church so hanging out is part of my work but sermons and paperwork need to get done too..I can only imagine how this increases for regular families)

2) Responsibilities

Most things these days require some level of participation that is beyond us: school, clubs, jobs, job-related socialization. Church responsibilities are the same, churches try to toe the line between keeping families involved and yet not being overdemanding, but honestly, most events are more fun if there are children there, except for the ones that children need to stay home for. The truth is, juggling kids at events is tricky, I’d prefer if every event was welcoming and helpful for kids to be present at.

3) Regular attendance

For most families attending once or twice a month is the very best they can do…they are just too busy, and making them feel guilty is not helpful.

Of course the easy solution to this is to no longer be the only “Young Family” at a church, but its hard to figure it out….I toy with ideas of starting a TEDtalks Bible study or doing more Family Oriented programming (Kids Clubs, Parents Night Out, Exploratory Music Classes), but timing is tricky. And I want church to be FUN. In the meantime, the hope is that there are advantages of being the “young family too” such as a. the kids getting more attention b. the church can listen better to your needs c. the church starts to be a better and better place for young families to hang out at…..

4) Welcoming

Being desperate is not the same as being welcoming. Church’s “need” young people to keep going, so they look at young families as their literal salvation (oops) and get very needy very quickly. Prime examples: Expecting young families to have their teenager to help with technology, expecting young parents to teach the Sunday School, Expecting young families believe the exact same things that the church grandparents believe are a few examples.

i.e. The Church should be more than a vampire looking for Fresh Blood!

Being welcoming is accepting the natural gifts of the family and asking them where they want to help out. Being welcoming is allowing for give and take….ask what the family needs from the church, not just vice versa…

What would help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed about families and church?

“If I sin, I pr…

“If I sin, I pray that my sin is to be too welcoming, and to have the door too wide open. Never do I want to stand before God and defend why I didn’t let someone into my community, family, church, faith or life because I kept the opening too narrow. I would rather explain why I let everyone in rather than defend why I kept one person out.”

-Rev. Katy Stenta

To me Church is…

 

To me Church is like a Wedding, a Memorial and a Grand Opening, it’s like a party,

like a neighbor welcoming you in for cookies (fresh baked) and like a playground for children. It should feel like a space that can be sacred and quiet and joyful noise-y.

Church should feel like there is no “right” way to behave, just respect, love and mutual upbuilding. It should feel like a place to ask questions, to stumble and fall (figuratively and literally). It should feel active, alive and full of stories. It should feel imperfect and incomplete (because we all are), it should be rich in tradition yet lacking in all stuffiness. To me church’s should feel more like AA, College Ministries and

Children’s Museums. It should feel like birthdays and Christmases, Yoga and Meditation, Gardens and Sunsets. It should be full of music and laughter, whispers and wahoos, hugs and kisses. Every single door of the church should be wide open, it should be advertised on craigslist and facebook, there should be huge signs welcoming everyone thru the door, and it should be as easy for crawling babies to find a comfortable spot as those in wheelchairs or who have to pace constantly.

It should be a place to find surrogate grandparents, helpful aunts and uncles and annoying brothers and sisters….It should be a place where interruptions are welcome, surprises are a good thing and change is associated with growth! Church should be Home; at least that’s what it is for me.

What’s Good about Church

I know the church is theoretically dying, that its full of old people, judgmental and is out of date….but here is what I like about church

1. The Music<–need I say more, no where else am I permitted to belt out the hymns I know, sort of know and fake knowing with no commentary on my performance and more commentary on how “fun” the music is!!!

2. Insta-Community: Its not perfect, but this is an intergenerational community that intentionally hangs out once a week, and (in better situations) more. Moving to a new community, church is still a great way to feel supported!

3. Sabbath: The rest of my life seems to be about “me” “my situation” and “where we are right now” from monetary woes to relationship troubles to personal epiphanies (yay), the church is a place to take a rest from myself and take Sabbath, to focus on the community.

4. Hope and Joy: Very few places are a haven to practice hope. It is much easier to critique society and the people within it then to intentionally practice hope (even while we acknowledge our deeply rooted brokenness and imperfections). The demands to be perfect are WORLDY, the celebration of life to be  joyful and hopeful are Christian (i.e. Good news! For more on this read my LOL Pastor post)…We not only confess what is true now, but hope, pray and preach of the community that can and will be thru Christ….think about that.

5. We are a bunch of like-minded people striving to experience something different: Most churches are 99% one race and 1% another. Yet, even though we aren’t good at it, and even though churches can be trapped into being an “us” “them” relationship, our call is to preach to the ENTIRE WORLD. (or one of my new favorite phrases…all creation).  To experience God is to experience something fundamentally different than oneself, the very fact we are open to that experience gives me hope for the church.

6. Relationships: I know of no other place than in Worship that we get to work on all of the relationships in our lives–we give ourselves time to figure out how to better our loving of our neighbor, self, enemy, friend, stranger and God. HOW COOL IS THAT? The only thing close is therapy, and that tends to be more specific. Yet in church we give at least an hour a day to work on ALL of the relationships in our lives (to me this reason alone is worth it)

7. Faith: Church is a place to come wherever you are on your faith journey (despite advertisements to the contrary). It is a community of differing beliefs that come together to build the richer and deeper experience of faith. If you don’t believe everything or even anything one week, you have a community, holding onto faith for you whenever you need it….

8. Empowering: Got a local passion or need? Church is a great way to funnel a real and hands on mission. If you feel called to so something, then the church is designed to equip, volunteer for and experience that mission. When churches falter on mission, its because they often lack the motivation or energy for a project, but if you are feeling compelled church can be a great place to real-ize that call….

9. Everyone is Welcome: This is a struggle for churches and individuals…church’s often hold a few curmudgeons, some fussers and one or two explosive personalities. Why? Because we are trying to practice universal love–like a family you may not like everyone in your congregation, yet you are working hard to get on with them. And this is a volunteer organization, we aren’t putting up with each other for money or a promotion (most of the time), we are doing it because individuals are important, because there should be room for everyone and because we value the fact that you are practicing your faith, even when it doesn’t look exactly like mine. We falter, we have power struggles and arguments, we say stupid things…but we also a a safe haven for the sick, the bossy, the imperfect, the tired, the annoying, the messy, the uptight, the mentally ill, the ostentatious , the loud, the meek, the ones who think they are perfect, the slow, the way too fast, the sick, the short, the tall, the bad singers, the mumblers, the addicts, the religious, the areligious, the sometimes/allthetime/onlyChristmasandEasterattendees. We don’t do as good a job as I’d like, but that’s because (let’s face it) these bunch of crazies are the ones welcoming you at the door, and heaven knows we have our own brokenness to struggle with…but we’d love to welcome yours too!

10. People like to talk about God–even people who don’t believe in God, like to talk about who God is (and isn’t) where God is (and isn’t) and how that plays a role in their lives. My friends would often broach the subject: in bars, at parties, during or after movies, on walks, wherever and whenever they are…..People like to talk about their spirituality…..Church is a place to do that…a place to kick around your ideas about what may or may not exist, to do the spiritual work of figuring out where you stand and (more importantly) what implications that has on your life…..

PS for another good read check out http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/08/its-our-fault-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/ on who millennials are (not just why they are leaving the church). Here is his comic….why millennials are leaving the church cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

 

Its not safe…

There has been an unspoken understanding that the church parking lot is fair game in the neighborhood. Recently people have been throwing trash in our dumpster to move and advertising free parking with the house that was on the market, re: our parking lot.

Maybe we should have a sign like this——>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

We have left notes and had conversations (Mostly in which the drivers were angry with us) about the fact that as the church increases our activity it is harder for us to let them park, especially since we have signs all over saying its illegal anyway (and I really don’t want to tow anyone to get my point across) I’ve been struggling about what to do with this, on the one hand it feels like we have been taken advantage of, on the other hand I want to practice Grace.

Grace is not safe. It is not an easy or even “nice” course. Grace is dangerous, its opening up your vulnerabilities and allowing others to be vulnerable too. How? Grace is giving space to another. Space for them to live into themselves, and there is a cost.

God is the God of grace because she created a space within herself in order to create us (Moltmann does a good job of describing this). God created space separate from Godself in order to create us, her children.

Grace is giving space to people who you don’t want to give space so and forming relationships AS you give them that space. Its acknowledging that everyone is human and broken
Sidenote: My church going to see Les Mis and discuss grace, but here is (I think) the point “Grace making bad guys into Good Guys and Good Guys into heroes since the beginning of time”–Katy Stenta

So what am I going to do about the people who are taking up space in our parking lot? I think maybe I’ll go over, tell them that I’ve noticed that they have parked in our lot and invite them to church…

By the Grace of God….

Very few scriptures talk about how “STRONG” Jesus is, have you ever noticed this? God is oft described as Almighty but that is not really a literal translation of the text:

it is really God of many mounds, because mounds were the places of little-g-gods, and the fact that God rules all the mounds means our God is almighty. Please there is this whole breasts/milk/nourishment implication which we tend to not translate in the slightest (get it, mounds?)

However, although Jesus is touted as powerful, I never see the superhero strength (Jesus is the man, because he is so strong) more often his kindness, care, wisdom and healing are the attributes named. So Christ is presented as powerful and mighty, but not through strength but instead through grace and kindness.

Because what is grace anyway?

     Grace is seeing imperfections and practicing love.

See the imperfections, acknowledge them, and then make a move of love (not anyway, not in spite of)  just because, because Christ made such a move towards us first.

What does this mean in day-to-day life? It means human dignity, it means seeing and acknowledging each other, and it means strength through love