#churches and #family the Socio-economics of #churchattendance

Warning: this will be rant-ish.

Know how churches don’t like that families and church no longer come first? How it is hard to get the typical family to church more than once a month?

The socio-economics of the situation are tricky, with little national health care and extremely expensive daycare it is difficult to have the time/money to invest in church. Either you are a stay at home mother/father with no extra funds or time or your one of two full time working parents who don’t have enough time to see your children and take them to all the extra-curriculars they “should” be doing.

The socio-economics are crazy, because most people can’t work a regular 9-5 job and are in and out of the house at crazy times working crazy hours.

Plus who knows if you’ll have that job or even be able to live in that city in 1 or 2 or 3 years from now.

Not to mention that most young families can barely afford to have a house or to not put in crazy extra hours or to work multiple jobs including babysitting or whatever other odd jobs they can find.

This is the reality.

So…understand, when churches do not support their staff taking care of their family. Whether it be to go to a family funeral, take care of a personal illness or to take maternity/paternity leave, that we are contributing to the very socio-economic problem we complain about day in and day out. Families who cannot take the time to take care of one another, who have to work instead of putting their family first, will have trouble making it to church.

Pastors are one of such staff…pastors are always on call, do not work 9-5, oft have to make meetings that cause delays of or missing of putting their children to bed. The hours are haphazardly put together depending on the congregation’s needs. Its a flexible job in some ways and very stringent in others.

Some typical (although not absolute) examples: if someone is ill, dying or in extremis you must be there…you may take sick days…as long as they are never when you are scheduled to preach

I know churches can ill-afford pastors, maybe its time to borrow other pastors, pay the choir director a little more or use a lay leader. Maybe its time to do a daily prayer service instead of a formal “traditional” service.

But if we can ill-afford pastors we absolutely CANNOT afford to not take care of those in need in our church…Think about that for a minute…the church claiming they can’t afford to take care of children and ill-ones…..

Thus: We can’t say we want more families to come to church–and then not support our families.  We can’t claim to be choosing God’s path and then not take care of our sick and our little ones.

(feel free to read paragraph above a couple of times)

Do we need an act of Congress to do the right thing?

I think we can do better.

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Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

Empowerment

Ok, Oberlin got me with this poster
There were a million other reasons why I went, but this was the primary one.
Its also why I go to church. (as opposed to sitting at home and being spiritual)
When I was 10 I was confirmed as an adult
I was assisting with Sunday School at age 12
At age 14 I told an emergency Children’s Sermon
By age 15 I ran a Vacation Bible Fair (just one night)
I was empowered, as such I am excited to see what I will do from now on!
Through church I find partners, through partners to be empowered to make a difference in the world.
Hopefully churches give healthy empowerment and partnership to those who want to love.
That’s how i look at it……

The Mystery of Ministry

“Why would you want to work only 1 day a week, and that’s a half day” –my mother…obviously before she was a pastor, trying to understand why my father was considering the ministry….

Similarly, my friend’s boss once said she wish she could have an easy job, like me…my friend laughed and said that I do all that a CEO does, but with volunteers instead of employees (and morals, although she didn’t tell her boss that)…..

I sometimes think being a pastor is more mysterious than Astrology in Harry Potter

unfog unfogging_the_future__2__by_i_never_stop-d5diz7i

These weeks have been very busy for me, between budget meetings, an emergency with a very troubled family involving the welfare of their children and a funeral…I’ve had to hit the ground running.

The truth about ministry is that it seems very mysterious because not many people know what you do in a week. We are like glaciers. For glaciers usually only 10% of them are visible…and I think only about %10 (that would mean 4 to 5 hrs) of the work of ministry is visible

For one, there is sermon writing…how do you do it? I personally consider it an art, which means that everyone approaches it differently (warning: results are not guaranteed) That alone can take 5-15hrs…Personally I tend to build up from the bulletin. Writing prayers, picking hymns in the context of the scripture help to lead me to the right space (usually)

There’s the office stuff: Paperwork for Presbytery, Newsletters, checking with the secretary (what  a blessing that I have one) to see when things will be printed, coordinating sending out things from sympathy cards and flowers to whatever other mailings are necessary (Stewardship materials anyone?)

Then there’s event planning: figuring out the timeline, alerting the appropriate leaders and medias, making sure the time is well advertised and convenient for most

There’s Pastoral Counseling, which often happens spur of the moment, and is so necessary for people’s care

Praying, as often as you can, and trying to include all relevant people in your prayers

Then there is the ministry of presence: which is the time you spend in the office or hanging out not looking busy so people can approach you…

Keeping in contact with those who have dropped out of the loop for whatever reason, and trying to remember to keep the church’s end of the relationship up either personally or (better yet) thru the deacons or hospitality people

Visiting those who are homebound or need home visits as often as possible and trying to build up lay leaders so they can do the same.

Keeping Connectiveness through the congregation by building in real fellowship moments that allow the congregation to draw together and experience God

Running the governmental board, maintaining Christ’s peace and addressing problems as quickly and directly as possible…looking beyond the people in the room towards God’s purpose for whatever is taking place…and then leading other people to that same vision…

Overseeing and checking in with the staff, trying to maintain harmony, set good boundaries and maintain open communication to nip problems in the bud

Advertising, Information and Communicating in as many levels as you can verbally, thru publishing (bulletin, newsletter, etc), thru the internet, to the church, to the community, to those who come, to those who don’t come, to the elderly, to the busy, to the families, to the staff.

Creating/Maintaining or Overseeing Christian Education for the littlest thru the adults

Being available for those Pastoral Care moments of sickness, deaths, births, marriages, major celebrations, moments of personal crises.

Attend big moments for church members (graduations, weddings, funerals, etc), even if they are not directed by the pastor, attending such events is important (and mostly fun) and a part of the job that is often not understood to be work, but are because you go as the “church’s” representative.

Maintaining your own Spiritual practice so you don’t dry up from lack of spiritual nourishment

Building Clergy Connections thru lunches, spiritual friendships, governmental meetings and other proscribed activities (mentoring, peer groups, continuing ed. etc)

Don’t forget the preaching–which is mostly what everyone sees

In addition to this there is overseeing and working on a viable mission (hopefully every church has one)..you know the thing  your church does that is really unique and therefore special, so you work really really hard not only to maintain this but to grow it.

To push the church, the staff, the governmental board, the neighborhood to be more Open: Open to new ideas, Open to new (and different) people and cultures, Open to experimenting, Open to failure, Open to unexpected successes, Open to honest assessments, Open to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

Mostly, pastors are there to facilitate, coordinate and teach about our relationships with God and eachother. Sometimes that means stimulating though about this….oftentimes it means spurring people into action. Its not an exact science, but it is an important task…

This is a fairly generalized list of what my job is, it is by no means a job description, but maybe it helps to clarify who pastors are and some of what they do.

Comic from “The Naked Pastor”

Church Event Guide/What I’ve learned in the last 4 years: Don’t do anything for free

Recently there was an article concerning the …..lets say staidness of overly churched culture….

How do you get a church to event plan beyond the church culture? Here are some guidelines to consider

Rule number One: Don’t do anything for free….it creates a debt mentality that is unhealthy for the congregation and the attendee

Church: Let’s throw this free event, then people will love us and come to church….

Potential Attendee: Free? Really, I bet that church just wants my soul, no way I’m going to that…

Church: We had a free event…why didn’t anyone come (or) People came to our free event, why aren’t they coming to church

Rule Number Two: If you throw an event, have a reason behind it (other than attracting people to the church…ideally have at least TWO solid reasons

ex: Let’s have a farmer’s market 1. it will support our local community and help reaquaint with the neighborhood 2. It will help our local economy–these are our reasons, we are sharing them with the farmers and the customers

ex 2: Let’s put on a play of Charlie Brown Christmas as a food drive because 1) that’s what Christmas is all about 2) we don’t want it to be free 3) because its for children, and if someone cries they can be taken out without money lost

I have found if you have 2 solid reasons, more and more reasons to have the event start to build…..eventually we realized a. there is no farmer’s market in our corner of the city b.people are meeting each other at our farmer’s market and becoming more communal c. its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary (see the ps for more info) d. Won’t you be our Neighbor? we found a motto that described that we wanted everyone in the neighborhood to come to the farmer’s market, and that this reason should drive everything we do

Charlie Brown Christmas 1) its accessible to children of all ages (yay for a mental center coming to see it) 2) one of our actor’s father with alzheimer’s could wander around and enjoy the show 3) people don’t feel bad when their kids make noise because we welcomed the children and they didn’t have to pay “good money” for it. 4) People love to donate food, we got wayyyyy more than the number of people who attended 5) It’s multigenerational, children are seeing what their parents and grandparents grew up with so everyone enjoys it 6) It tells the good news but is not too preachy–many people who are spiritual-but-not-religious felt comfortable with coming to see Charlie Brown

Rule Number Three: No ulterior motives….Try, try, try not to have ulterior motives for putting on Events, because when you do, You hamper God!

You box the event into being successful based on a bunch of random info that you think is important, instead of running the event and then discovering what was important afterwards.

Discuss What Worked Rule Number 4: This is the one piece of advice that I MUST stress, talk about the BEST part of the events, discuss what worked, look on the brightest side, ok not many people came, did you get ANYONE new (?) that’s progress, did you learn anything about advertising (?) that’s progress, did the group do a lot to work together and enjoy certain parts of the process (?) that’s progress. Progress is incremental, you do not build a success story out of one event, but many

Rule number 5 You do not build a success story out of one event but many (see above).
Rule number 6 Try to do repeatable events. I find it take 12 meetings (rule of thumb) to know if something has failed. I repeat, an even CANNOT have failed until you’ve tried it multiple times: whether that be a Bible study or a playgroup or a concert series. That means if you meet once a week it takes 3months, if you meet once a month it will be a year. If you have an event every season then its 3years before you can write it off as a failure. (recommendation: if you have monthly events that are not really connected but seem to be a “thing” that are happening, start measuring those as a grouping, because you are advertising regularly.
(Rule number I’ve lost track, because it doesn’t matter how many rules there are) If you must count (altho I try not to) include your workers as attendees! They are there, they are making time and effort because they think this event is important, and you value your current members/community as much as your potential community (well that is the theory you should be practicing right?), include them
Another Rule Reinvest from the event: For our farmer’s market all our farmer’s fees went into advertising the market, we didn’t make a penny. For our Charlie Brown Play we turned it into a food drive to further teach the message of the play. Don’t do it for the church, do the event for the MISSION of the church
Final Rule: advertise, advertise, advertise: Get people to hand our pamphlets, send out invites, be sure to do that internet thing pick ONE UNIFIED IMAGE for the event and post it everywhere. It takes 3 times of seeing something to register. Put up NEW SIGNS for every event, it makes you look active, it shows your paying attention, it shows your reaching out and you care.
PS try to have events outside the church building (I know, I know that monstrousity costs a lot of money to maintain), but its a lot easier for a stranger to go to neutral ground then to come to your turf where you make the rules ex: its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary, the fellowship hall feels less forboding than the chapel area and the NURSERY is a very friendly place if you make it feel welcoming. Also TRY To make things clear (where to enter, where to park, etc) you don’t want to make your people feel stupid before they even arrive<—my church is still struggling with this, but it makes a clear in-crowd, out-crowd thing…you don’t want that!

Narnia Kings and Queens

Once you are baptized or ordained as elder, deacon or pastor, there are no takebacks: “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”

― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown”

Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/heavenly-crowns.html#ixzz2d89N1oQs

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