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Contributor

Church Question

My wife and I have attended the church I grew up in for the past 18 years. Both of us have served in just about everyway imaginable and have reaped countless benefits from doing such and are very happy here. We have average attendance of about 110 and at a meeting I was at this evening the Preacher stated that we are a church of 110 doing the work of a church of 150 and that if we had 150 that 30 or so people would be doing most of the work but in our church it is probably more like 25 although no-one is keeping score.

 

 Most of the time we have been active our three kids have been active in our churches youth group. over about the past 11 years or so we have had probably 6-7 different youth leaders and it always seems to end poorly. Our kids started church here when they were very young and it seems like them and some of the other long time members kids are kind of being accused of being territorial and not very welcoming to new possible members. I think that there is probably some truth to it. This was brought up in a meeting of adults and no names were mentioned and no offense was intended or taken. Our kids have been taught to hold themselves to a high standard. If you think that someone might be trouble then steer clear, they are overall well-behaved and willing to help with about anything you ask, work hard and you really would be hard pressed to find a better bunch of kids. Ministers and youth leaders I think are led to try to bring in any and everyone who needs help as they should, but the rub is that my kids know these kids from school and the community and have a hard time believing that they are sincere after seeing them in real life in other places.

 

After I have told my kids all of their lives to be selective about who you are around should I just say nevermind? The real mission of our church is to bring the Word of GOD to as many people as we can but I'm pretty sure that the more needy folks you bring in the less that the long time members will want to participate.

 

My youngest is 16 and is as busy as any 16 year old I know. Its tough to watch them grow up. I hope she will stay active with it for a couple more years but I can sense her pulling back and losing interest. I guess it is part of growing up.

 

Any Thoughts?

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24 Replies
Senior Contributor

Re: Church Question

I had to take my mom to church and pick her up this past Sunday.  I haven't gone to church for many years.  Same church.  I felt like I didn't belong.  Yes, several of the same members but some new I didn't now.  The minister has changed over the past few years.  Seems you just get to know one and they leave.  I guess my feelings are that if someone is interested in going to your church, let them.  If they prove to be a bad influence then you notify the clergy and let them have a talk with them.  There were some little ones running up and down the steps with no real supervision and I frown on that..I didn't know them either.  That  and the fact that I didn't join in the cookies and juice because I didn't go to church, made me feel as if it wasn't "my" church anymore.

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Re: Church Question

It is probably not nice to say this, but some people are very territorial and closed-minded and -hearted when it comes to accepting people into their church. 

There were times when I questioned my own involvement in my childhood church, which I had taken my children back to when they were small.  Quite frankly, there was one incident after one of these "breaks" that finally was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I had taught Sunday school Bible school, and coached kids' softball.  The more I did, the less I felt it was appreciated...it was taken for granted.  When some little snot-nosed kid turned yo my youngest daughter and announced to everyone in their class that she had missed X number of Sundays, that was the last one we attended.  I woudl nto subject her to that kind of snub again.  So, YES, kids can drive families away. 

My children actually asked me, "Why would you want us to spend time with peope who only care what you are wearing and what kind of car you drive to church?  Is THAT what we are supposed to be here for?" 

 It was not that our clothing or car were any less nice, but that anyone would make a point of it.  Some of these kids were HORRIBLE, because you knew they just didn't know better than to repeat what their snobbish parents said in the car on the way home.  I grew up with them. Believe me, they were truly that bad. 

Some of the worst bigots I ever knew were my peers in adults' class...which was one reason I gravitated to teaching the nursery school class...at least they couldn't talk very much junk about anyone else at age two!  I could not take listening to a lesson peppered with racist sentiments. 

From the mouths of babes...once I stepped away and looked at what my own children said, I saw how hollow and materialistic the congregation had always been,.  I can only point to a handful of spiritually-evolved people out of a "church family" the size of your own or larger.  It was about one-upping everyone else. 

So, I do not know what lesson you really want your children to learn...I guess I am very judgmental about peope who make bad life choices; but, if they are trying to do better, show up and want to join in, who are your kids to judge them?  I guess I really listened and believed it when the Scripture taught about jesus telling the mob that "He who is without sin shoudld cast the first stone." 

 Being "selective"' in your personal life - who you associate with in school and who you bring into your home - is not necessarily the same as who you want to welcome into your church. Isn't church supposed to be where people go to remake their lives, to be forgiven, to be welcomed into loving arms?  Jesus was not too selective, was he? 

It is two-faced to teach one thing, and practice another.  It is the classic example of hypocrisy. 

My own wonderful husband will not go into a church, unless one of his children needs him in one for their wedding.  He got a belly full of Christian hypocrits at a very early age, and is true to his decision to avoid them.  My 100% "[perfect" Sunday attendance family looks at him as not good enough, but he is a better person than that whole bunch rolled together...so, who are they to judge him? 

In essence, you are saying that your kids see themselves as 'better than" the kids they are ostracizing.  It''s not unusual for teenagers to want to rank each other socially, but you need to also temper that with your own, more mature guidance.  Or, is everyone who enters the doors of your church perfect, and no one who is "less than perfect" welcome?  It would be an empty place, if so.

In the final analysis, it boils down to whether you see your faith as "inclusive" or "exclusive."  You simply cannot have it both ways. 

Someone has trusted enough in your ability to approach your with this as a situation they think you may have it in your hearts to address in a manner befitting your faith.  It is a teachable moment in the life of your children, and it is up to you to show them how to accept people as works in progress...as worth saving.  Missionaries do not reach out to the already-converted.  

Your children will usually depart from your way of doing hings, at least temporarily.  It is a part of becoming independent adults.  If you have truly lived your values in front of them, they ought not stray too far from them.  If they only rub up against people exactly like themselves, you will never know. 

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Re: Church Question

"After I have told my kids all of their lives to be selective about who you are around should I just say nevermind? The real mission of our church is to bring the Word of GOD to as many people as we can but I'm pretty sure that the more needy folks you bring in the less that the long time members will want to participate."

 

We could have a long discussion on just that last sentence.   But let's blend that in with a couple things Kay said:


"some people are very territorial and closed-minded and -hearted when it comes to accepting people into their church.  ... Being "selective"' in your personal life - who you associate with in school and who you bring into your home - is not necessarily the same as who you want to welcome into your church. Isn't church supposed to be where people go to remake their lives, to be forgiven, to be welcomed into loving arms?  Jesus was not too selective, was he?   It is two-faced to teach one thing, and practice another.  It is the classic example of hypocrisy. "

 

So many thoughts rattling around in my head.  I'm probably not going to do a good job expressing any of them. I remember reading someplace that nobody is perfect.  I think the implications are some are even farther away than others.    I don't have a good answer about how to handle others with a less than desireable history.  I guess it depends on how sincere you feel they are.  If the kids think they are sincere how they ought to relate to them is a lot different than if they think they are just cming to church meet the opposite sex or if they are just coming for the free cookies and milk.

 

edit: Sorry, was called away.  I'm trying to unwind a bit so I'll see if I can catch my thoughts again. This may seem like a collection of random thoughts because I don't think there is space here to fully develop them. I guess the place to start is in the original post: What is the real mission of the church?  Is it to reach out and bring others in? Is it to do good? I have a viewpoint that many will have trouble with.  The real mission of the church is to worship God.  Nothing more, nothing less. But here is where it gets interesting.  When we look through the New Testament  we see Jesus say "Feed my sheep".  We see phrases like fruits of the Spirit. We see talk about faith and works.  We read in James that if we have faith but it doesn't show up in how we act our faith is worthless.

 

If the church is fulfilling it's real mission (worshipping God) it is going to show up as actions. Not necessarily by the church as an organized body but the church as the people involved in it.  At the end of James chapter 2 we read:

 

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.

 

That is a very, very theologically deep sentence. Where I'm going with all this is if the church is really fulfilling its mission to worship God it cannot help but do the things we see as reaching out to the ... I hesitate to say "lost" but it most quickly gets the point across ... and helping develop them as followers of the faith.

 

In the Book of Revelation we see various churches mentioned.  It is commonly accepted these were real churches but also they were examples for us to study and take note of.  One of the things they tell us is a church can mess up.  The church is made up of imperfect people, people who do things wrong and mess up.

 

I was at a conference a few years ago with a speaker from a large fundamentalist denomnation. He said the average church lasts 100 years.  His denomination, rather than try and fix a dying church, would just start up a new one nearby.   I understand from a human standpoint that is the quickest and easiest solution, but I'm a farmer who was raised to never throw away anything that had potential of good in it.  I think the same of people and churches.

 

The difficulty comes when we try and reform the folk who have become so set in their ways they don't realize their attempts at doing right are becoming a hindrance to others.  I see that happening in my church.  The new preacher is advocating some actions, some changes in how the church does things.  The problem I'm not sure he realizes yet is some long time, raised in this church members see it as saying Dad and Uncle and Friend were wrong because the didn't "do church" that way.  I think that is why the denomination I mentioned just starts over.  It avoids the hinderance of history.

 

I'm wondering away from where we started.  Let's look at one more thing.   "Being "selective"' in your personal life - who you associate with in school and who you bring into your home - is not necessarily the same as who you want to welcome into your church. Isn't church supposed to be where people go to remake their lives, to be forgiven, to be welcomed into loving arms?"  How do you (and your kids)  do both? We are warned in 1st Corinthians 15:33 not to be tricked by false words,  that evil company does damage to good behaviour.  As I said earlier, I don't have a good answer.  If they are sincere then we have an obligation to help them grow and mature.

 

I've taken a lot of space and still haven't gotten to some of the issues. And I've unwound enough I'm getting off for now.  I'll try and come back tomorrow.

 

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Re: Church Question

I get an additional sense, in reading the original post, that the influx of less-desireable (I am being honest in the undertone I picked up on here)  youth may be the result of a youth ministry that may be doing TOO good a job???? Is the objective in sheer numbers of new attendees...or is there some honest and earnest effort to reach out to kids whose upbringing hasn't been as ":careful"?

If a minister is bringing in people, but they are perceived as problems, they can just do what the Methodists of my youth always did:  ship the offender to another charge.  We never kept a minister but so long...few had any real chance to make an impression of their own, and if they did not learn to gauge the political wind of that congregation, they may have made it as little as a year before being moved along the pipeline.  If their wife or children were in any way offbeat, it was the kiss of death. 

I watched numerous families come to the church I wrote about above...and precious few '"took" to it.  When I think about it now, I suppose I thought as a teenager that they felt they did not measure up on the material scale to the many "successful" farmers and professionals that attended.  In retrospect, I would say I left - and I would think many of them did, too -  because of the true bankuptcy of spirit of that place and the shallow people in it. 

This topic raises a lot of issues in relation to organized religion. 

Is a church more "mine" because I've attended it for decades, and someone else only for days? 

Do my feelings and opinions amount to more because I've alwasy donated more time than someone else? 

Mike is watching his favorite "KORN" concert on the DVR right now, and I am watching those kids raving in the crowd...that and this thread make me remember that our elders didn't want us to dance in the social hall.   Ironically, the reason for building it was supposedly for the youth to have a place to engage with the church ourtside of formal services.  As Scooby says, "RUH?"

My senior high Sunday school teacher, an elderly widow named Miss Carrie Neaves, ended every lesson from grade nine through twelve with the same sentence:  "This is a changing world we are living in...these are changing times."  

Sage wisdom; but, she would melt down if "her" classroom chairs didn't find their way back after a supper meeting.  It was not the number of chairs...they had to be the exact ones.  Anyone over fifty-five can still pick them out today, forty years or more later, I am sure.  We were still carrying them back to her corner classroom 25 years after her passing...now, THAT is influence!

 

I think of her words, her deeds, and the difference between the two, more often than any other person who ever taught me in all the places I've studied since.  

I am sure the devil dwells in there, somewhere. 

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Re: Church Question

Kay, you have read quite a bit into this that really doesn't exist. Our congregation for the most part are not into trying to outdo one another in fact some of us could be accused of trying to out cheap each other. The teenagers that are native here are not really into fancy clothes and the ones that can drive are usually driving a hand me down car etc.

 

I have felt underappreciated just like you on more than one occasion, I have also walked out of adult sunday school class disgusted by some of the opinions I have heard, but usually after a week or two I go back and will come away with something positive.

 

I teach sunday school 12 weeks per year to 5th, 6th and 7th graders and I think that teaching them is the most satisfaction that I get from church. They can keep you on your toes. We have been reading the book of Mark a chapter a week leading up to Easter. A couple weeks ago we read about Jesus casting Demons into some pigs. I think I knew some of those pigs back when we used to raise hogs.

 

I don't like drama. I tell people the truth, try not to jump to conclusions or speculate about other peoples motives. If my Wife or myself tell you that we will be at a certain place at a certain time to do something we will be there and we will do whatever we agreed to do. As we get older we are learning to be more careful what we promise.

 

My kids and their friends are comfortable in their own skin. Their Folks are still married to one another and Mom and Dad are willing to put their kids first. The issue that we have had recently is that the youth leader will bring in someone who struggles,  then since this person struggles they should get special treatment. That doesn't go over very well. If you want to be part of the group OK but then everyone should follow the same rules. All of this creates Drama and the kids have been taught to avoid drama so they have mixed emotions. We had a blow-up at a youth retreat in January because a new struggler showed up on the scene. The most recent struggler who had pretty much become part of the group pouted and acted crappy all weekend because they were no longer recieving special treatment.

 

While you said we should be careful about judging others. You sure don't seem bashfull about judging the members of your former church.

 

Jesus certainly didn't mind hanging out with some pretty unsavory characters but, Jesus never had to try to raise teenagers.

 

My kids have asked hows come when we have a youth party 15 kids show up, when we have a regular meeting 10 kids show up but when we go rake leaves at a shut-ins house us 5 regulars show up. I tell them that that is just how life is.

 

Thanks for you reply

 

 

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Re: Church Question

Totally agree with you...yes, I do judge the way my family was treated by those "religious:" snobs.  I do not judge them, but I will say what I think - and to their faces now, if I encounter any of them - about their actions. 

Some children take more attention.  Usually, it is because they got none growing up at home, or only got it for bad behavior.  There are ways to ease them into the group, but it takes skill.  You cannot just drag them in the door and think their habits and patterns of behavior will automatically improve. 

Their reward system is built on drama...it is what their families feed upon, and it usually all they know.    We have one member on this board whose profession it is to try to help people with such dramatic lives for a living.  I am sure she will weigh in with some good advice. 

I am sure my feelings are quite jaded, but I am honest about that and okay in my own heart with it.  I have reared three teenagers; and, just so you will know: if a group of five showed up for duty at a dirty job, they and I made four of them. 

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Re: Church Question

You know, I thought about this one after I posted to it last night...you are right.  I have judged the people I eventually left behind in that church for many years. 

 I am sure they are indeed perfect people, whose children had somehow spontaneously developed the attitude that it was appropriate to make nasty,hateful, critical remarks to another child, whose parent had decided they needed to be somewhere else for a few Sundays.  Could not possibly have been from any home influence...only good stuff comes from home, right?

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Senior Contributor

Re: Church Question

I think you are over reacting. Church is to be open to all who wish to attend. A closed church is not doing what it is designed to do. And I have been a member of one of those country churches. These kids that have not been brought up in the church need to hear the message. I believe it can rub off from your kids to the those new kids a little at a time and maybe (hopefully) change their lives at some point. I don't think it is right to isolate kids from the real world because soon they are going to be out in that real world with all it problems. Kids will rely on the values they were raised with at home. Sure some will stray but those values are in their heads.

Like Kay, I still recall things my Sunday School teacher said often. I have taught bible school and certainly hope and believe I made a difference.

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Re: Church Question

I'm pretty pressed on time & haven't actually read everyone's posts completely.  But after reading the original I don't understand a Christian having an attitude such as this.  I'm not judging & maybe I have the wrong idea of the problem but Jesus wants us to "do unto others as we would do unto him".  Is this how you would want Jesus treated if he showed up at one of the youth meetings?  How can we help/change "outsiders" if we don't try to show them the God's loving ways?

Yes, we who volunteer at church or anything probably are under appreciated by some but what is the motive for doing it?  For glory or for God, or our own satisfaction?  Some kids need extra help & understanding-it's a test to deal with.  Certainly they are a test to cope with. 

Sorry to be "preachy" but I guess I'm confused by this attitude & double standard. 

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