Empty Church

GA is coming, that’s Presbyterian Speak for our large governmental gathering “General Assembly” where we discuss worrying things like Our Investments (or not) in Israel, How important gay issues really are (or aren’t), and……the fact that there are no young people in the church. Debate will ensue about most of these issues, except the last one. There is no governmental amendment to magically change the demographics of the church

There will be lots of worrying about the drop in membership, the drop in money and the drop in young people in the church.

People will ask where have the people gone? They will also ask why people won’t represent (Particularly the lay people), they will ask where the children are….and they will worry…

However, I do believe that at most churches, Presbyteries and even on the GA floor the wrong question is being asked. The question that really asked isn’t Where are all the people.

The worry IS about the emptiness.

But I think the question people are really asking are not “Where have all the people gone?” but rather “Where has Jesus gone?”

Because, if Jesus was in church, then wouldn’t the people be in church? If Jesus was here, wouldn’t people flock to us and what we are doing?

Here I have to confess: I believe Jesus is in the church!

But I also believe Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit is already at work in the world. I believe that church doesn’t hold a monopoly on God (our God is bigger than that)

and I believe that the emptiness the church is feeling is real and is scary….I also believe we have felt it before, when Jesus died on the cross, when the tomb was empty, when Jesus Ascended, when the church was scattering across Africa, etc. etc.

The church is empty, but what can we theologically learn from that emptiness

Maybe Jesus will find us in our church and ask us….

You are afraid of the emptiness? Look at what God did with an empty tomb!

 

(and p.s. if you want more families to be present I highly recommend BABYSITTING and FAMILY FRIENDLY accommodations as a start, it isn’t an amendment that will bring families flocking in, but it is a way to serve those who are already present–this should not be an uphill battle folks, it should be a given)

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?