I enjoyed reading a blog post on Halloween and the Part 2 post that followed. What especially caught my eye (and heart) was this portion from her Part 2 post: “…nobody wants to be you or your church’s pet project. People are looking for genuine relationship. Genuine community. They want to be loved because they are worth loving, not because you want to love them to Jesus or into a church.”
The reason that stood out for me, is that I have been struggling with something like that in my church experience, too. I found my current church home at a fairly largish Community church that is non denominational. I have attended services there since 2005, and became a member in 2006. The pastor’s sermons were invigorating to me, and the people seemed genuine, stable and friendly in a warm way. I liked the talent pool that was being used in so many different ministries and figured I certainly would find new and exciting challenges in my Christian growth there.
I attended Sunday School and Sunday services regularly, and would attend the extra social options as I could (work life and other events allowing). I also volunteered to take responsibility and leadership as well as being support personnel for a few ministries where I could. I tried to talk to people I would meet at church, and see if we could meet again later, outside of church. Whenever I got an invitation, I accepted if at all possible. If I could offer an invitation, I did.
As each effort floundered, I would let it go after much prayer and being certain that more damage than blessing was being done [Added Edit: Just to be clear, I am not an easy quitter: I worked with some ministries for more than 5 years, and still never felt the welcome.]. I’ve also had health issues and financial limits hampering my availability as time has gone by. So, I’ve gradually stopped going to Sunday School, attend Sunday services infrequently, and don’t go to the extra outside social events due to a variety of limitations, mostly financial (even a free event will cost me gas money), and sometimes health related – but mostly because the welcome hasn’t been consistent or real. I thought that some of it may be that my talents weren’t what they needed, but that can’t be true in every case.
What I am finally doing as a member is participating in a Bible Study at the home of one of the elders. It’s in the evening, and frequently I am dealing with issues from Fibromyalgia and have to miss some nights. Every time I return there is a welcome, and a depth of friendship that resumes as if I never missed a day. Here is where I can be myself, confess to my blunders, be humble and ask for prayer as I need it. I also get fed some really great Scripture study time as well as social contact at the “chat and chew” that follows.
This is what I have needed, and longed for; but I’m still not sure why I only see these folks on that night at that time – and not many other places or times. We all have one another’s phone numbers, but – we don’t call. I’m just as guilty. What’s holding us back?
I have often decided that it’s not like being in High School, where we all are forced to come to a common place at the same time through the week. It’s also not so simple when you live in different neighborhoods. When I had a family, most of the people in the church we went to were also raising families of similar ages. We met their grandparents and enjoyed them as surrogates in our lives, and enriching us with each embrace. I miss that, now that the kids are all grown and flown.
So, I have a dilemma. I once believed that church should never have walls. That when we leave, we (as one church had posted over the doorway) “enter our mission field” and do our best to embrace people who need embraced, be joyous with those who are celebrating, and comfort those who mourn right where we meet them. But we would keep in touch with each other as we went our way, networking problems we encountered, sharing skills when the need arose, and supporting each other if we felt weak, tired or even depressed. It didn’t seem like anyone considered it a chore – that’s what being loving is like. It’s not always convenient, but we still don’t call it a chore when we’re needed, and we like being wanted and needed by the people we love.
I think we’re doing church wrong somehow; but I really dislike complaining about something unless I have a solution to offer. I’ve pondered this often, and I haven’t found one to offer yet.
What do you think? What solutions are there for removing the walls of church as it’s happened for me as a Single Senior?
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