Monday, September 20, 2010

Becoming a better church

I have done a lot of posts about church, how I wish my church were different, etc. Some may think I am too hard on it, but it is the church I attend, so I see its faults..... not the faults of the church down the street.

I've been thinking about it, and decided to blog about how my church could become a better church. Maybe yours too.

1) Be friendlier. We have a welcoming committe on Sunday mornings. They shake your hand, give you a bulletin, and welcome you to the church whether you are a regular or a visitor. My brother-in-law calls them the "germ squad." But are they enough? No. We need to do more. Better.

    a) With visitors. My church seats close to 300, and has 3 sections. I sit in the left section, so I don't usually run onto people in the right section, and a lot from the middle. But..... I, and everyone else does not have an excuse to not welcome a visitor. I did yesterday. A woman sat in front of us with a couple from my church, Grace & Frank. When the service ended, I tapped her on the shoulder, shook her hand, and said Hi, Grace's friend, nice to have you here this morning." Easy? Convenient? No, and no. I am a bit backward with new people, and I like to get out of the church as soon as the service ends.

   b) Our "brothers and sisters." That is in quotes because I strongly believe if we are a family, that there aren't going to be casual aquaintances in the church that we never speak to, never acknowledge. Too many of us have a select group of friends..... a clique who we dash to after church and talk to 99% of the time. No one else matters. We don't care what the other people are going through. We just want to talk to Jim or John about hunting, or Martha and Mary about the great sale at Christopher and Banks.

2) Charity begins at home.... or our home church. It is great for the church to support missions and reach out to people in the community and get them into church, but if people in our own "family" are dying on the inside, on the verge of giving up, lonely, feeling disconnected..... are we not failing in some way? The Bible says to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together. Why? We could worship, pray, and sing at home.... so why go to church? To hear a sermon? Yes, but I believe God wants us to gather together for fellowship and to be encouraged by others in the church.

3) Balance the focus. My church has gone to a new forum for the youth, and it seems that is all everyone cares about. Fun and games for the youth. They even set aside a service each year to talk about it and have the youth talk about what they do. I always feel like I am watching trained seals..... Just kidding. Kind of.

My church isn't big enough to have much of a singles group, but I know others in the church are like me: too old for the youth group, and left out in the cold with none of the focus on us. There are others.... young married, older people... we don't seem to matter as much as the youth..... and don't get me wrong - the youth matter, but we ALL matter, and I feel my church is severely out of balance in this area.

4) Encourage others. There are many ways to do this, and I have done an entire blog post about this, so I will try to condense it. Instead of listing who to encourage, I will say anyone in the church. How? I'm glad you asked.......

    a) Testify. Huh? Sometimes I feel no one else in the church has any struggle, any doubts, discouragement...... It is refreshing for someone to get up admit to those things, and tell how God has been helping. Too many people never testify. I had a pastor who I consider a fake and a jerk to boot, but he made a statement that I kind of agree with. He said (to his congregation) that if someone there did not testify in a year's time, he would feel justified in asking that person to go to the altar. Extreme? Yes, but he does have a point. If God is doing anything at all for us, shouldn't we tell about it at some point? If He answers a prayer, shouldn't we tell it publicly, especially if we asked for prayer publically?

    b) Pat someone on the shoulder. Sound dumb? Not really. There are a couple of men at church who pat me on the shoulder occasionally when walking by, and it gives me a good feeling. A hug can also be good when appropriate.

    c) Send a card. Often we don't know what people are going through, but if someone comes to your mind, maybe there is a reason. Shoot them a card, or an e-card, email, facebook message, or a phone call. I sent an encouraging card once to a couple in my church. The woman approached me and asked who told me what they were going through. I honestly had had no idea. You just never know.

    d) Give $$. If you know someone is having it rough financially, slip them some cash. Every bit helps, and it will also encourage them knowing someone cares.

    e) Ask someone how they are REALLY doing - and mean it. I am pasting something I read on a blog Stuff Christians Like that falls into what I am talking about here:

Sometimes, we Christians, worry that if we admit things are not going well in our lives you will assume that our God is not good. You will see our struggles as a reflection of who our Lord is. So instead of being honest, we will drop the Christian “F” word, which of course is, “Fine.” Even though you can see on our faces that we were up all night arguing with our wives we will tell you “things are fine.” How’s the new project going? Fine. How’s the family? Fine. How are things with your wife? Fine. The problem with that approach, in addition to being really dishonest, is that we’re called to comfort people in the way we’ve been comforted. We’re called to roll up our sleeves and show our scars to other people and be real about them. Jesus came to heal the sick and when we pretend we aren’t, we’re just lying.  Life doesn’t have to be “fine.” You are not failing if it isn’t “fine.” God is not less loving or powerful or great if you tell someone the truth. If anything, when you open up and are honest, you get to share how even in the midst of something sucktacular God is carrying you through those times.

Good point. I have been guilty of using the "Christian F word." How about you?

    f) Take someone out to eat, or for coffee. Just to chat, see how things are going in their lives.

There are a few ways. Anyone else have any more?



Nike Chillemi said...

Thanks for such an honest article.

I am quite fond of my church and picked it for it's urban, casual, relevant qualities. It's one of those evangelical emergent churches that attracts young, single professionals. My husband and I are the old married couple. LOL Married 23 years.

However, like you I see the flaws in my church, and the flaws are due to the type of church it is. Therefore...the flaws seem to come with the very reasons I picked the church.