The following arrived in my inbox earlier this week.
Nick, I read your blog articles with faithfulness, almost every one of them. I feel more of a “friend” with you through your writings more than in any other way. I feel so bad for you as a Minister in this day and age when the Church seems to be crumbling all around us and I feel my own sense of guilt knowing that I too am part of the problem and not the solution. I haven’t personally been to Church in over a year, yet I feel increasingly closer to God. Does this seem bizarre to you? I admit that sometimes I miss feeling part of a “body of Christ” but in all honesty I can’t miss what I never had, it’s more of a longing for what might have been. I’ve struggled to find my place in my family church for more than 25 years (holy frig!). I wanted to get more involved and was often told that my attendance wasn’t regular enough to be considered. We probably attended every second week at that point and did miss time due to having a young family. I argued that for a lot of people perhaps feeling more a part of things would lead to better attendance and I still believe that to be true! Most people are desperately looking to be included, to feel worthwhile, to be given a job even if it’s a small one…I’ve gone to other Churches in my community with the same feeling of being an outsider, everyone desperately clinging to their place in the choir or whatever position they currently hold, lest some new person might come and snatch it away from them! Most Churches don’t seem to really WANT new Members, this is what I have personally observed. I’ve since tried to satisfy myself with my own personal relationship with Christ, time spent with my family and my charity work. My 14 year old daughter admitted to me a few weeks ago that she doesn’t really believe in God and now I have to live with the fact that I haven’t really fostered my children’s relationship with God by dragging them to Church every week. It’s a terrifying thought to me that my own children’s salvation is at risk….Add on to this the confusion that I feel about the hard stance that a lot of Churches are taking on issues (that I myself haven’t quite reached a decision on in my own heart) and I find myself in quite a religious mess most days. I really don’t know what religion I “belong” in any more. You probably think that this is just a slew of excuses, I’m sure that you hear similar things all the time but I really do see these issues as having a large bearing on why so few people attend Church anymore. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to share this with you but I needed to reach out and perhaps it is time for me to become encouraged again and do some more “Church shopping”. One thing I do know is I haven’t given up on God and he certainly hasn’t given up on me!
First of all, this is not uncommon. Secondly, my friend has articulated something beautifully. And she hits on some incredibly valid points. Thirdly, it breaks my heart to read this.
Do you wonder why your church is struggling when your community has many young families? Does anything my friend says above mean anything to you? Are you really as welcoming as you think you are?
I was once working at a church which had a potluck dinner. Someone was nice enough to put a sign out front advertising it. But then a stranger showed up, and next the sign quickly disappeared.
I was appalled. A church which actively turned away new people. There’s no wonder this church has seen a mass exodus of families over the last few years. Thankfully some have gone to other churches and not given up all together.
As churches we fear for our future, we do it constantly. Don’t lie to me, your church is doing it now. Yet how many of us don’t listen to the voices in our community who actually want to be part of us?
It reminds me of this cartoon shared in social media recently.
What are we afraid of?
If younger people start coming to our church, so what if they change things a little bit? At least they are in our churches! Isn’t that reason enough?
Parents, young adults, they want more in their lives. Some even know they want to know more about God! Some even want to have a relationship with Jesus… but can’t find a church which will foster their maturity as Christians.
We have failed them.
I realize not all churches are like this, and if your’s is not, I pray that you will continue your good works.
But if you are a church which has actively (whether intentionally or not) turned away families because you are afraid of them and their ideas, then I pray, and ask you to pray like you’ve never prayed before for changed hearts in your leadership and in your pews, that all may be welcome to grow in faith and maturity in their relationship with Jesus Christ. The one the world needs more than any other right now.
If you are looking for more reading on this subject, Carey Nieuwhof posted a great article on this: “5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders”
A very special thank you to my friend who shared her struggles with the church. And I pray she is finally able to find a church home where she can grow.