Monday, September 29, 2008

Falling through the cracks...

Saturday, I had to pick my in-laws up from SFO. I was not excited to go! In fact, I dreaded the thought after being stuck in traffic for 2 hours when we dropped them off (and it was my birthday...). I was even less excited that Matt had to work so I would be driving alone. So, I thought I'd call my brother-in-law, Tony, and see if he would at least come with me. He agreed.

When Tony and I aren't are totally different pages with things (we have an interesting relationship), then we usually have good conversation. This was one of those times. We covered a lot of points about the church. We talked about the church regarding abortion, pharisaism, hypocrisy, homosexuality, pride, separation of politics from church and the like. One thing we discussed that I enjoyed the most was how long-time members of Church's sometimes fall through the cracks.

What I mean is that sometimes churches get so focused on getting new members, that they forget to really take care of the existing members. It's so so very sad. I've seen really dedicated members of the church I attend leave. Mostly over misunderstandings, or the feeling that the things they do aren't appreciated by the church (even if you're truly serving God, I think people still needs to know their work is valuable to the church), or they get treated more like employees then volunteer staff.

I talked about how frustrated I still am about all the stuff that happened to Matt and I, and how I feel churches will sometimes sacrifice their own members to protect a member of their staff. I talked about a time I had been really involved at a church, and ended up leaving the church kind of suddenly. I left because of a lot of broken promises, and some other things. No one ever called to ask what happened. It seemed like it was kind of like "ok, well just find someone else to fill her spot.". That was the time I didn't go to church for almost 2 years. I felt like I was just some workhorse, and that I as a person didn't matter. The same thing happened at the church I currently attend. Because of gossip, and a misunderstanding, and some interesting lies by someone that doesn't like me, a pastor didn't trust me wholeheartedly, but he trusted me enough to be a workhorse. He told me how great of a leader I was, and He trusted me enough to set things up, and do PowerPoint, and the snack bar. When it came to anything that wasn't labor intensive, or something fun where I actually got to hang out with kids, he picked someone "better". Now apparently that ministry is really short on leaders. Here Matt and I are willing leaders, that love kids, that love to serve, and we're not allowed to because of a stupid misunderstanding. Ugh! It angers me to no

I guess I didn't realize exactly how I felt until that conversation. It's like all of these thoughts in my head were puzzle pieces, and when I said them out loud the puzzle came together. My biggest issue with the church is that it tends to get so focused on new members, that everyone else can potentially fall through the cracks without much notice. Weather it be not doing to right thing, so the pastor is protected and the issue doesn't get publicized, throwing the hurt party to the wolves, or people leaving unnoticed, and then feeling like they aren't cared about. Maybe that's the same reason I don't really like a big church. How do you keep track of everyone? Yeah maybe small groups, or whatever. But maybe the key is when a church reaches a certain size, to plant a new church. I like the latter! I don't believe in the "mega-church". I know they're out there, but I don't think a church should ever get that big.

Just another crazy thought I guess!


Jamie Stavenger said...

Thanks for sharing this post, Sarah. It's a good perspective (especially for me, someone who has been on church staff the better part of her life!) But I do have a question...practically speaking, how can churches do a better job of tending to the existing body? How would they successfully accomplish that?

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Honestly, I think it's sort of complicated. I understand the desire to grow a church. I think it's important to do outreach, and if a church didn't grow it would be dead.

What I really think it has more to do with, is a change of the mind set of the church leaders. I know that their are many churches that don't see people as people, but as numbers, Judging how great of a job they're doing, and how healthy the church body is by how many people attend. I just think if churches were more mindful of the entire body, then parts of the body wouldn't be neglected. It's just like the human body. You can be healthy and then have one part of the body become unhealthy, even if it's something seemingly small (a thyroid for example...) and have the rest of the body become unhealthy if it's not taken care of.

I understand how hard it is, I've been both a member and staff member. I do think that one of the reasons people fall through the cracks isn't because the church doesn't care, but because a church gets too large and the church staff can't keep up with the needs of the body. To be honest, it's not good for anyone. Not only do people feel like they're un-loved by the church if it cannot respond (or does not respond) to a need, but I think that a lot of pastors are already spread too thin to have a healthy home life, which in turn takes an enormous toll on them, which comes back to affect the body. That's why I'm a firm believer in church planting. It allows you to grow a church, but also to form a new body of believers so your church doesn't become an impersonal place.

I don't think there is one answer, but I do think that it's a place where the church in general needs improvement. I love the church, and I have so much hope for the church. I just hate to see people that have been so faithful, go down because of silly little things that the church just can't deal with, or are so focused on something else that they go down unnoticed. Does that make sense?