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OK, OK, yeah, this is bugging me…

I’ve been avoiding the subject. Time to quit. I wrote this last night, then I found a good way to crash a Linux box (a good electrical storm does the trick) and lost it.
Has anyone else noticed that you’re more likely to find someone to talk to you, listen to you, and understand you in a bar than in a church?

That bugs me because I’m supposed to be one of those guys you come to for those three things, and I take a whole lot more than I give in that area. People my age just don’t come, because when they do, everyone acts like they’re not there. Yours Truly included, because I’m up in the loft, behind a pair of keyboards and monitors or a video camera, too busy making sure the right images are projected up on the screen. I’m too busy pursuing some ideal called “Excellence in Worship” to have any time for a stranger.
So, we so-called “leaders” just huddle, comfortable in our little clique, marveling at the 50 people joining our congregation next month, completely oblivious to our hundreds of inactives and people who visited, then decided to go find somewhere else to get their needs met. Hopefully they went to another church. Chances are a good number of them decided they’re just as well off staying out later on Saturday nights.

So I’m mad. Mad at myself as much as anyone. But something has to change. It doesn’t matter how excellent your service looks when the sanctuary’s only half full.

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9 thoughts on “OK, OK, yeah, this is bugging me…”

  1. Church service is an under-appreciated duty. When it’s not there, then it is missed. So, keep it going, but recruit others so that you can rotate duties and mix with others.

    Regarding the others your age, what needs should be met during Sunday worship services? Bible class during Sunday School time provides for learning, church service provides for worship, fellowship afterwards for increasing friendship.

    Consider other group paricipation activities during worship services, such as a singles choir, instrumental ensemble, or a drama group. You should be able to excuse yourself momentarily to be included at that section of the liturgy. Get the other folks your age to sponsor a potluck during lunch where you provide the meat, drinks and entertainment such as fun skits, games, or other talents.
    Later on you may consider a BBQ, ice cream social, other special dinner, or service projects for the church and community.

    It sounds like your Friday bible study nights are well attended. Could they be extended onto Sunday mornings as a separate class for the same age range?

    Dave, don’t be mad, although it sounds like you do realize there are needs to be met. In my 20’s I vowed I never wanted to marry a girl I met in a bar. There’s too many life issues that may need to be compromised for the sake of love. Fortunately I did marry someone of my same faith and attitude, and we have not had a serious argument during our 13+ years of marriage.

  2. Before any of that can work, the people have to feel valued. If you go to a service and no one talks to you, but you see other people chattering away with each other, you feel like you’re just not a member of the country club.

    Who wants to go to a BBQ where they don’t know anyone? If I’m a newcomer and they don’t talk to me on Sunday, why should I think they would talk to me on Saturday afternoon? It’s gotta start on Sunday morning.

  3. You and the other leaders might consider inviting newcomers to join you for a meal–not en masse, but one on one or at most in small groups.

    As tiny as our church is, there is an awkwardness when a newcomer shows up at a function, worship or Bible study or picnic or whatever. And the simplest and best way we know to get past that awkwardness is to invite the person or family over for a meal or out for one, with a relaxed time afterwards for getting acquainted.

    Quite often that is enough to make people comfortable with the church at large. But at the very least they will comfortably gravitate toward you at the next function, which will give you an extended opportunity to get them acquainted with other people in your circle.

  4. People will be valued if there are greeters present who know the cliques of the church and introduce visitors to appropriate members. I agree with you about how it feels if no one talks to you, yet many feel awkward and prefer not to mix right away, especially if church shopping or seeking faith answers. Yet if there isn’t anything going on after they leave with only a bulletin. Regarding BBQs, they’re fine for Sunday and all it takes is a simple invite for eating or recruiting help. After all everyone needs to eat. 🙂

  5. Reminds me of what once happen at my church.
    A couple had attended the church a few times and after the service they approached the pastor and they told him how much they enjoyed the service, etc,. To which he thanked them. However, the next statement they made was, "We are not coming back, but..(the dreaded but!) no one ever greeted or approached us".
    Well, that just broken the pastors heart. Next service he told us all the story and it changed us. (The next vistors were overwhelmed! lol) Sometimes we all need a wake up call. To get out of the salt shaker, the salt (we, me) sometimes need to be "shaken".

  6. Please excuse the errors. I wrote and typed to fast. (I use the advanced "hunt and peck" method).
    Edit comments……
    That reminds me of what happen at my church once.
    Well, that just broke the pastors heart.

  7. These are just observations about matters which may seem minor, but aren’t – I don’t have answers for you, but the observations may help you formulate some answers.

    The small country town church my family goes to runs a sort of double jeopardy – if you attend the service, there are people rostered to talk to visitors outside the door as they leave. We all sort of mill around outside the church talking for five or ten minutes. We then (most of us) move to the church hall for tea or coffee (cordial drink for the kids) and biscuits; and more informal socialising (sort of somewhat separated (spatially and socially) from the immediate after-church session. Works well, for people who do turn up – they rely on a lot of old regulars, plus a lot of school teachers moving to or through the town. Their next challenge is to start bringing in NEW young people.

    OK. I don’t live there any longer. The church I attend now is a young evangelical church which hires a local school hall to hold its services. Great church, full of the spirit, and I’m glad I found it. They do pretty much what I said above, but of course they don’t have a separate hall, so it’s tea and coffee at the back of the hall (or as it happens off to the side). Doesn’t seem to me to work quite as well – there is the fact that it’s harder for people to "escape" without being spoken to; but there isn’t that distinct move from church-meeting to socialising, and that seems to be a loss.

  8. It’s a great problem, that churches (like most organizations) are divided into two categories: those who contribute and those who merely come for a free ride. Of course, I’m not talking about visitors and newcomers here; I’m talking about regular church members. It’s a sad fact that the majority of people in the majority of churches have never realized something that is FUNDAMENTAL to the practice of being a Christian: it is more blessed to give than to receive. Do we think Christ was speaking metaphorically when He said that? Do we think He meant "It is more blessed for ME to give than to receive"?

    In my own experience, there has been a (slow, because I’m a dummy) progression from going to church simply to be fed myself, to going to church to help others get fed properly. As Paul said, when the Lord told Israel "Do not muzzle the ox when it’s treading out the grain," those who are participating in the spiritual work automatically get fed themselves. This is a spiritual principle. Such people don’t have to come to church looking to receive a blessing; they just need to be used in helping others get a blessing, and their own needs will be met. The Lord can do this, as I can amply testify. There’s a basic transformation that can take place in us, from being the ones who stay after service to receive prayer, to being the ones who stay after service to do the praying. I experience this week after week after week.

    Okay, so what about burnout? Don’t such "worker bees" get tired from giving and giving and giving, and never getting? The Lord Jesus said (again speaking entirely pragmatically, not "theologically") "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." He said "yoke" because that reminds us that two oxen are hitched together by a yoke, so that a plow can be pulled with the strength of both of them together. And the other person in this yoke with us is the Lord Jesus Himself. Again I reiterate: this is not high theology or wishful thinking or spiritual metaphor. If this is not your own personal experience, it certainly can be.

    And it doesn’t even mean that you have to be in some "official" position in your church. All you need is to have eyes that are open to see the needs of others, and a heart that is open to those needs.

    Do you think you’ll have to look far to see needs? Uh-uh. Do you think you’ll have to ruin your own life and sacrifice everything important to you before the Lord can use you to give a blessing to a visitor or newcomer? Uh-uh. Do you think a visitor or newcomer is looking for a bolt of lightning from heaven, and will be satisfied with nothing less? Uh-uh.

    So open your eyes. Let the Lord make your heart soft. After a service, look around for the visitors and newcomers, and go and introduce yourself. Smile big – your real, happy grin, and not some nervous, half-ashamed smirk. Say "Hi, I’m Pete. I’m really glad you came today." Make a little small talk, and maybe you’ll have a chance to see if they’d like to grab a bite somewhere or something. You and a few friends can invite a visitor to grab a burger with you, can’t you? Or whatever?

    Does this sound like a horrible duty? Naw, man, it’s that light yoke. Do you need to be a pastor or deacon to do this? Nope, just a Christian. Jesus loved us first and best and always. All we have to do is go out of our way a LITTLE, to pass a LITTLE of that love along to a stranger. Read about the Good Samaritan again, and remember what Jesus told the Pharisee who asked "Who is my neighbor?"

    You be the neighbor.

  9. As a youth pastor wannabe, I’m constantly reminded of the little things that will bring people into a church, and the little things that will keep people in a church. Sure, some of the "older crowd," people who have come to your church for a while might not notice them, but the new people that come, that are "church shopping" sure do. Going up to someone and saying "Hi," being truly interested in why they decided to come to your church that day, what they think about it, letting them know about some of the youth activities (or adult/young adult/single parent…you get the idea)that are going around that week and inviting them out, introducing them to other people, like the Associate Pastor and Senior Pastor, some of the "regulars," shaking their hand, giving them a sincere smile, and telling them that you hope to see them again. Little things like that make all the difference.

    And then when people leave, you wonder why, and you realize that you kept forgetting to go up to them to talk to them, to see how they’re doing, to ask them if there’s anything that you could pray for them for that week, to follow up on such a request, to let them know about come of the coming events at the church, telling them a joke that you heard: simply being interested in their lives, and you understand why they would leave.

    It’s true that too often we as Christians are more caught up in our own little world then have the desire to engage everyone around us, even those that we love. If you were ignored week after week, would you continue to come back to that church? I wouldn’t. So like Pete says, we should probably change that. To quote a shirt, "Be the change."

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