The balancing act

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One of the young adults said this weekend:

“I wish there was some way that the church could communicate that they missed you, without communicating guilt.”

I wish that, too. For some reason, there’s a fine line between, “I’m sorry you weren’t here last Sunday” and “Big Brother is watching you.”

Maybe it’s because it’s the beginning of fall, but there are so many thin balance beams that I’m teetering on these days.

I wish I could make sure people feel welcome, without smothering them or acting like the leader of some perverse cult.

I wish I knew exactly how visitors wanted me to contact them. If I call on Monday morning, are they going to be happy to hear from me, or are they going to freak out and think that Western’s some kind of telemarketing church?

I wish college students would RSVP (I know, I know, I don’t even try…but I’m dreaming here…). We’re always falling off the edge on this one–two could show up to an event or fifty. It’s just hard to plan the food.

I wish that I could communicate, “We’re there for you,” without communicating, “feel free to call me anytime–on my day off, on my vacation, or in the middle of the night–for any reason.”

I wish that we could be wise with our money, but also have the freedom to invest some cold, hard budget numbers into possibilities–and even failures.

I wish there was some way to make sure that the rich diversity of our congregation is reflected in our committees and sessions, without a person feeling like they’re the token young person, or male, or Korean, or Black, or (fill in the blank).

On the same note, I wish there was some way to talk about diversity, cross-generationally and with various ethnicities, without feeling incredibly uncomfortable. And while I’m at it, I wish I could pinpoint what’s making us feel so awkward.

I wish there was some way that we could be responsive to new ideas, but not get caught up in each whim. Also, I wish that the member who had the new idea actually showed up for the event when we held it.

I wish there was some way we could raise our expectations high, and not get too disappointed when things don’t work out as planned. Or, I wish there was a way to keep expectations low, without expecting failure.

I wish that we could be excited about church growth without tying that desire to a need. In other words, I hate sending out the message, “We need to grow the church because we don’t have enough volunteers.” Or, “This church has got to grow because we need more money.”

And, I wish that we could be passionate about issues, without being known as a church “with issues.” I hope that our continued quest for justice and peace is an outgrowth of our spiritual lives and our deep abiding connection with God.

the photo’s by tusconpics

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8 thoughts on “The balancing act

  1. RSVP’s – HA! We had an event at the Presbytery level that had 120 registered, 30 canceled the day before because of weather concerns, and 150 (!!) showed up, excited to be a part of a great learning experience.

    Idea maker/Showing Up – Anny and I have a rule that if we are willing to put the idea out there, we will follow through to some sort of end. (even if it’s “not right now” or “nope”) We want a fellowship for parents of young children, so we’re spearheading it and have gotten lots of support where needed.

    Contact with not guilt – Our pastor is good about finding people that would be better contacts than she is. If the pastor calls, sometimes you get that “what did I do” feeling, even if it’s not on purpose. Just yesterday she noted that we have not seen a couple and asked that Anny contact the wife. They are our age, basically same personalities and have a new baby. She’s good at matching people up, I think. It works to push us out of our box, but not so far that it freaks us out.

  2. I resonate with all of these things and would love to quote you sometime soon. I’ll give credit! I wish… all of these things too.
    And of course, have you ever heard of the vampire theory of church growth? “We need some new blood.”

  3. “The vampire theory of church growth”? That’s hilarious! Now, I have to quote you, Diane!

    I wonder if pastors have always had to fight this evangelism=money-grubbing struggle. Or is it an outgrowth of our particular culture? Jonathan, you’re from the itinerate preacher tradition, did any of those pastors, riding horseback from country church to country church write about this? I’ve never come across anything….

    Thanks for the match-making idea, Rob. I ought to use that more.

  4. The old Methodist circuit-riding preachers didn’t worry about money. If they had food to eat and a place to sleep, that’s all they cared about. (Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but you know the rest of that verse). Wesley warned his preachers not to build any “preaching houses” except what was very plain and simple. He said to build anything ornate would mean that the Methodists would become dependent on rich people, and then “so much for Methodist doctrine and discipline.” It wasn’t long after Wesley’s death (about 50 years) that the Methodist started forgetting his warnings and worrying about new church members to raise money (as opposed to authentic evangelism to make disciples).

  5. May I have permission to use these words in a sermon:

    One of the young adults said this weekend:

    “I wish there was some way that the church could communicate that they missed you, without communicating guilt.”

    I wish that, too. For some reason, there’s a fine line between, “I’m sorry you weren’t here last Sunday” and “Big Brother is watching you.”

    Thanks, again for another great blog entry!

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