Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Little More UnChristian

From a comment exchange on facebook
"I SO wish church gatherings were dialogs rather than monologues."
we've had this same discussion with our church leadership. the new testament church didn't have these sermons and set schedules for things. i'm a worship and youth leader and love the worship times but even there... the new testament church gathered to pray, worship, TEACH, discuss, share and to pray more. everything was done with an attitude of worship that i'd bet didn't include a set list of songs or even always music. church has become more like a college lecture than a dialogue between believers. if we can't get back some of the dialogue, we'll keep losing, especially, the young people who need it the most.
for a brief shining period of time, my husband and i were able to lead youth meetings with the attitude of having a dialogue with the kids about the scripture we were reading and how it applied to their lives. it was lively and the kids were growing and catching fire. then someone decided we needed videos and a curriculum created by someone with credentials and a recording studio. the kids were then asked to sit in the dark to watch a video, answer pre-written questions from the leaders handbook and fill out a worksheet none of them took seriously...
okay, i'm ranting now and will chill.
we need to become like the early church.

Okay, so that was the initial rant. There is more.

Sunday, when we got to church we were greeted by the heartbroken mother of one of our youth kids. He's been struggling, self-injuring and Tuesday night things came to a head. He's being held right now in a room at a local ER because there's no room for him in a facility that can meet his current needs. He's not receiving treatment... just meals, a tv and paper pajamas to curb the urge to leave. To his credit, he's willing to stay because he knows he needs help he can't get at home and he knows his problems are causing turmoil in his family. He WANTS to get better.

What got me was that we suspended youth meetings in December. Primarily because kids stopped showing up. We were doing a video series Charlie and I had been given to present to the kids. They HATED it. After the meetings were suspended, the Pastor and his wife had a sit down with the youth to ask them how things were going... were they enjoying the series? They unanimously agreed the previous, less formal format had been both more challenging and more informative. They felt the less structured arrangement allowed for honest questions. They appreciated that Charlie and I were both knowledgeable about how scripture applied to their lives and willing to listen to their stories and honest about our own lives. We never pretended or tried to suggest we had all the answers or had lived perfect lives. Kids need that. They need people who can be real without fear of occasionally looking dumb. They need role models concerned with honesty and not with 'saving face'.

I know I have no genuine control over what's going on in this one young man's life... but I'm also aware I have an influence. It's hard right now not to feel guilty for not having been there in our once a week meetings. It's hard not to feel angry with myself for not speaking up more firmly about the total lack of positive effect of the videos. It's hard not to feel guilty for not pushing to resume our meetings in January. This young man was one of several to ask repeatedly when we'd at least start up with Drama again... But I've been directed not to hold Drama meetings unless we have a specific script to work on and right now, we don't.

Side rant... you CAN'T teach kids basic technique ONLY through the skits themselves. There is so much more to an effective drama team than what gets seen in a 'performance'. I've tried repeatedly to explain this to the leadership and they seem unwilling to grasp or accept it. WHAT DO THEY THINK WE'RE DOING? SIMPLY SCREWING AROUND? *sighs*

I'm frustrated and angry and not even sure I can put words or reason to the why. Well, beyond what I've already said...

Maybe I'm being childish... maybe I'm being willful and deciding I know better than people with more experience. (oh wait... not one of the 5 Pastors and elders has ever worked specifically with youth outside of raising their own kids.) It's not like I'm without the tendency to be stubborn and full of myself...

Maybe I am getting full of myself... and maybe I'm just tired of hearing how vital Charlie, Rachel and I are to the functioning of a Sunday service in our small church while at the same time being allowed NO input or genuine say in how we participate.

I want you to lead worship but we're going to work from CD's. I'll tell you when we're ready to go back to a band, and with whom you'll be working at that time.

I expect you to prayerfully consider and prepare for Sunday worship but make sure that you cover the range of cultures represented in the church (ei: don't get too white or too modern) and adjust your set list to fit whatever songs I decide to give you 45 minutes before the service begins and make sure we have lyrics for the congregation if it's a new song and try no to look too much like you've never heard the song before... oh, and be sensitive and obedient to the Spirit.

I want you (Charlie) to be on the mark and perfectly prepared to handle the technical aspects of service, even when we refuse to give you the tools you need and throw stuff at you last minute. Oh, and no matter how many times you ask me to properly label new music, I'm going to keep handing you CD's with 'track 1. track 2 etc.' because I refuse to admit I either don't know how or am simply too lazy to make your job a little easier.

I want you (Charlie) to jump up and down with excitement when we purchase new technical equipment even though we 1: paid too much and 2: didn't consult you about the best equipment for the job. When it's not the right equipment and things don't go well, I'll make excuses for you from the pulpit instead of admitting I screwed up.

I want you to have a drama team with a spirit of excellence but you can only meet when you have an actual script to work on. Oh, and be ready if I decide I want the team to come up with something on short notice.

Come up with a creative way to raise funds to pay for this piece of crap video series we haven't paid for yet and will insist on using even though the youth hate it... because it will give the elders a way to 'connect' with the youth and let them know the church is behind them.

I want you (Rachel) to begin to function within your gifts and talents... as soon as we decide you're ready. In the meantime, don't hold back. WHAT??? Oh and don't expect to ever get to teach/preach because some people aren't comfortable with a woman in leadership.

I will say I give them credit for knowing never to ask Charlie a question they aren’t sure they want answered with candor and honesty. This is why we’re only invited to meet with the leadership a couple of times a year.

They also get credit for taking what we do tell them in these meetings and making an effort to bring it to reality.

Maybe I’m too impatient for change. Maybe I think I know more than I do. Maybe I just wish they’d put aside their traditions and safe thinking and be a little more similar to the very radical New Testament Church. I mean, these people were so far out of the norm and what was comfortable or acceptable in those days, a lot of them ended up imprisoned and killed.

Do these people (most of who are in their 60’s) not realize that the very old time hymns they want regularly added to the services (“we don’t want our youth to forget them”) were considered almost blasphemous in their own time? Some of the old hymn book favorites were tunes ripped off from bar songs with the lyrics changed. What makes those songs more worthy of singing than Kutless?

When do we stop talking about change and get out of the building and make it happen? When do we stop preaching to the congregation and get out and show them how it’s done?

And, seriously… what makes you think trucking in 10-15 “on fire and ready to go” 20-somethings from other states are going to make the difference? Don’t you realize they are going to run into the same problems affecting change the ones of us who are already here are fighting? Do you really think they’ll stick with the status quo for more than 6 months before moving on? If they’re as on fire as you say, then you’d better be prepared to get out of the way. Given the need for perfect order and control we have going on, I do not see that happening. You can’t say you’re expecting the church to “bust out” when you’re fighting so hard to keep it in.

Maybe I’m fed up enough I’ll stop complaining and do something. Maybe I’m pushing too hard and asking too much. Maybe the Church example I see in the bible simply isn’t practical or possible for today. Maybe I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. Maybe I’m just hormonal.

And maybe… just maybe I’m ready to gather the guts to speak up… without waiting to be asked.

God help me.


  1. Back when I taught Sunday school, I quickly found that almost any curriculum or video "designed" for teens was garbage. It spoke down to them, treated like idiots, failed to address their lives in any practical or helpful manner, or all of the above. I too found that simple discussion with my teens was a far better approach to teaching and discipling.

    I'm also of the opinion that these days, a good drama group has to be prepared to develop their own scripts. Knowing something about your youth, I'm willing to bet that this would be a fruitful endeavor for them, both in terms of personal development and in terms of creating powerful, relevant material to present.

    The problem is that leadership wants fantastic change, but they want fantastic change that enables them to maintain (the illusion of) control. Those two things are almost always in conflict.

  2. That is so unbelievably heartbreaking. So few churches "get" what kids really need and instead have these "fear factor" type nights and XBOX giveaways and such.
    The worst of it is, churches don't need to spend MORE money to give teens what they really need. They can spend way less.

  3. On an unrelated note - do you think most people are part of a church more for the sense of community than out of need to fulfil their spiritual endeavours?

  4. @kapil... i don't know about most. not in our congregation anyway... but i do think a large portion of the over all church-going community uses it more as a social network than a place of spiritual growth.


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