I’m not talking about the SBC, about blogging, about Voices, or about my current church but I’d guess that there are many parallels in the experiences with all these.
When I retired a few years ago, I expected to take interim jobs, maybe fill in a modest number of Sundays but not be as tied to the church as I had been as pastor. For all the decades that I served fulltime churches I could count on being tied up on Sundays and Wednesdays and usually a couple of other evenings during the week. Sometimes we had revivals or special events. Sometimes we had a regular weekly visiting night. Sometimes there were funeral visitations to attend. You know the drill. There’s always a bunch of things to tie up the pastor’s evenings.
Free from all of these, I decided to pursue an interest I have had for years but was never able to expand and fulfill it. The interest was in rocks, gems, and minerals. I loved hunting and exploring such things when younger but never did much other than casual learning and exploration.
So, I jumped out there and joined the local rock and gem club. The club had been around for years, involved a lot of folks my age, and did interesting things. They had a special event for the public that appealed to the general public. I went. Joined. Attended faithfully for the past two and one half years.
Alas, I can’t seem to crack this group and really join. Maybe it’s my fault.
I’m scaling back my involvement, mostly dropping out, but am keeping my membership so I can show up once or twice a year.
Sound like something familiar? Church experience? Folks who join and drop out? Folks who come Easter and Mother’s Day, maybe Christmas?
There are similarities.
Here are some reasons the rock club fell short, in my eyes
- Although they were all nice people, I didn’t get the feeling that they were all that interested in new members
- The small group had been together for decades. I looked at their old photographs. Same people, just younger.
- The introductory event dangled a lot of fantastic rocks and gems that the group had found but these were once-in-a-lifetime finds, extremely rare. I didn’t have much chance at this. Expectations were raised that could not be met and resulted in disappointment.
- Their social networks were, ahem, ‘rock’ solid. There wasn’t much of a chance new people would break into these, unless they brought a lot of expertise to the group.
- Being a novice at mineralogy, I didn’t have much to offer.
- My interests as a novice didn’t correspond to their interests as experts and longtime rockhounds; thus, it seemed that I was more tolerated than accepted.
- There wasn’t much emphasis placed on finding the interest of new people.
- New people came to a meeting or two and then disappeared. No one was bothered much by that.
I see all the same things in churches and worked hard to overcome them.
- It’s important to be friendly and welcoming. Yeah, twice I got asked in churches to move because I sat in someone else’s seat.
- It’s important to be deliberate about assimilating new people. Of course, they are likely to be novices. Take the time to bring them along. All the old hands wer once novices.
- If the percentage of repeat visits is low, find out why and address it.
- I’ll never be as knowledgeable as the other club members, but I would have appreciated a structured opportunity for learning and growing.
- Once, I asked an older hand about why there seemed to be such little attempt to connect with new people in church in a meaningful way. He said, essentially, that it was their fault, not the church’s. Okay, bro.
- I see people come and go all the time at the church I attend. I asked the pastor about it. It’s painful to him. He’s aware of the problem and tries to address it. I blame it all on millennial restlessness and irresponsibility.
Sure, it takes an effort and maybe I didn’t expend the effort so maybe it’s my fault.
But, it doesn’t cost much to hang in the group and I can still go a few times a year.
I think I’ll try joining the local bird watching group. I’m a bit of an expert there and look nerdish enough to fit in.
About the SBC, I’m in for the duration. I don’t see any reasonable alternative at this point in my life.
About Voices, I appreciate the guys here. I’m trying to help some of them with their faults like sports teams they inexplicably support.
But, you’re just in your current church until you can move to a bigger one, right? Maybe make a living self-publishing books or consulting. Maybe land a cushy denominational job.
It wouldn’t be a bad thing if all SBC pastors took a year off from denominational squabbles and complaints and concentrated on their church, on the people God sends to them. That might help more than twitter fights, accusations, finger-pointing, predictions of disaster, and new takeover groups. Just sayin’