I got an email a couple of weeks asking my thoughts about the ways that lay people are “knowingly/unknowingly contributing to the decline within the local church.” This colleague, who is writing a book, was asking a number of ministers to offer their initial thoughts. A follow-up email this past week suggested that the laity has lost its sense of hospitality and are not welcoming people who are different.
I decided to weigh in.
I stood up for you.
You are welcome.
First, I said that while there is probably plenty to blame on laypeople, it strikes me that there is plenty of fault to go around – including the failings of ministers and the atmosphere in the larger culture. Second, I said that it is not clear to me that churches which are less open to a diversity of visitors are suffering over those churches that are highly welcoming. In fact, these last two churches that I have served seem to me to be more welcoming than most in the community . . . welcoming of people who are diverse in race, sexual orientation, and economic status and who are differently-able. It has not been clear to me that such openness has made these churches more popular than many neighbor congregations. Don’t get me wrong – I am all in on diversity and hospitality and openness. It is just that some things you do because they are right and godly, not because they offer a competitive advantage. (I also suggested that because a more pluralistic society is where our country is headed, I believe that in time most churches will become more accepting and welcoming of people who are “different”. . . because, in time, those people will come to be seen as not different at all.)
I wrote much more to my friend, but one other observation I offered was that even the way we tend to formulate the question is problematic. To be asking what is causing the decline in churches is to subtly suggest that churches deserve to exist and flourish as what they have been. The point is that if there is one thing that laypeople – and ministers, as well – do to turn-off people, it is probably the way that we cling to existing structures. Those of us in church tend to love the church we have known much more than the newcomers do.
Now, let me get to the point I want to put to all of you.
We seem to be in agreement that we like worshiping together.
We get to see everyone when we are in one service . . . the mass of people is greater . . . there is more energy . . . there is an efficiency, especially with respect to staff time and building set-up. For all those reasons and more, I hear us saying we should move back to one service.
But then, the wrestling starts: I like a less formal setting . . . with an earlier time, the day opens up for other activities . . . I am afraid we will lose guitars . . . I am afraid we will lose the pipe organ . . . if we stay at 10am, Sunday School is too early . . . if we move Sunday School, when would we count money?
And so on and so on.
Change is hard.
Curiously, it has occurred, our decision probably would be easier if we were starting a brand-new church – there would be no history to guide or restrict us.
We had a listening session a few weeks ago and decided to extend the single 10 o’clock service through this month, promising to gather again. And so we shall: Wednesday, October 10th at 6pm. It may be less a listening session and more a push to find the way we will follow for the rest of the year. So, come join us. But bring a spirit of openness . . . and trust . . . and adventure.
We can do this.
We CAN make this work,
God bless us.
Blessings and Peace,
#ccdoc #ncdisciples #fccwilsonnc #churchgrowth #wecandothis #grow #sprout #ourseasonoffaith #unity #weareone #welcometoourfamily #wilsonnc
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.