Friday, February 18, 2011

Staying Out . . . of the Church, that is

I had this good friend a few years ago. Her name was Sandra. Sandra had been happily married, with two kids and then her, otherwise healthy, husband had a freak and fatal heart attack when he was thirty. I met Sandra about a decade later.

It became a bad habit of mine, but out of kindness, that I would suggest to Sandra certain men-friends of mine that she might be interested in. Not that I don't believe women, or men, can't be complete without a mate, but she was always talking about men. She thought the UPS guy was cute and etc.

But one day, after I offered to set Sandra up, she said the most interesting thing. "You know Mike, I'm really not interested in a relationship with a man right now. I mean, if I knew he was Mr. Right, then maybe. But you never know until you've been with someone for a while. Then it is so very messy trying to get out of the relationship. So, I've always said that it is easier to stay out . . . than to get out."

I know I've spoken here a lot about the twenty-something generation. I have a heart for them because I have 4 kids who are in their 20s and the last one will join that distinction next year. So we know that the vast majority of that group have nothing to do with the Church, even those brought up in the Church. While Denise wishes all our kids attended church each week, it honestly doesn't matter to me anymore. What matters to me is what they are thinking about life, about what the meaning of all of this is and etc. But one theme I hear, at least from my son's Tyler's friends, is that they are fearful of the entanglements of the church. There are strings attached.

People would invite them to church and if they go once, but not go back . . . then there is an issue. "Why didn't you come back? Did someone offend you?"

If they go on a regular basis, soon it will be, "Why aren't you going to such and such program. You know, God wants us all to do our share."

Then if they participate with the program, soon the question comes, "Why don't you lead such and such, or give such and such."

Continuing to speak for that age group, the next thing they fear is entanglements into their personal lives. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but just that's how they see things. What I mean is, say the 25 year old guy brings his girlfriend. Soon it becomes obvious that they are living together. Then the questions and judgments start to come.

So the question I propose is what is minimal, but healthy, Church involvement? I'm asking this question as a realist. Many would say that my question is a bad question because we really should be asking, "What's the maxim involvement with the church we can do." But if you keep that narrative, that more is better, then the percentage of the 20 something kids not associated with any church will rise to 99%.

I still think the best thing we can do to reach them, is to offer them minimally intrusive church. I'm talking about, one get together per week at a coffee shop, were deeply candid questions can be discusses. The sacraments can be observed on occasion. Counsel always available. Then create a social community (aka church) among the group. I think it would be healthy if this smaller microcosm was attached to a larger fellowship that involved all age groups. But that the expectations of involvement with programs would be low.

The types of involvement for this new generation has to be different from the 90s. I think these 20 something kids would relate far better to helping with a church sponsored soup kitchen, or park clean up, than a very evangelistic program of drama, tears and preaching (think of Jesus Camp here).

I know that Frank Schaeffer said that what attracted him to the Othrodox Church was this strong sense of community but with a lack of intrusiveness into your personal life. What he meant was a judgmental intrusiveness. The example he gave was deciding for no clear reason, that they would not attend church for a month. When they went back there would be no assumptions that they were mad about something or turning their backs on the Lord but simply the assumption that they must have had good reasons.

I think I'm starting to ramble so I will pause.


brenda said...

I love it! I'm not twenty-something though...I still want to go.

jmj said...

I think when I'm with my new church a little longer, and I am done starting my business (and can breathe again) I will suggest to our pastor that I try to start something like that.

Jaimie said...

I'm 24 and I visited a new church last month. I actually really liked it until a guy walked up to me afterward and invited me to go to his freaking HOUSE for lunch. With some other people in the church, but still.

Single girl here. I was a first time visitor and he knew that. I was also alone. I don't know, it just felt like a major boundary intrusion, and I was just getting out of that situation.

Like, I don't know you at all, I'm not coming to your house. You could rape me.


Didn't visit that church again.

MJ said...

I don't if I would say paranoia. There's as many lunatics inside the Church as out, however there is more naivety inside about this type of sociopathic behavior.

I had a patient once who had been on staff with a parachurch organization in St. Louis. She signed up for an evangelical dating service. She met a guy through this "screened" service who shared her dreams of going to the mission field or other full-time Christian work.

She went out to dinner with him. It was a lovely time. He obviously, in her opinion at the time, loved the Lord. He said all the right words and she had no doubt about his faith.

Then he took her home to her apartment. It was late. She kissed him good night (feeling that he just might be that Prince Charming she had been looking for). He asked to come in.

She answered him, standing inside her apartment speaking to him through the crack of the door, with a sweet voice, "No, it's getting kind of late and I've got to get up early (you know a healthy excuse)."

She was caught completely off guard but he immediately went into a rage, kicked her door open so hard that it hit her in the head, knocking her to the floor. He pounced on her and raped her. But, to had more confusion and pain to her soul, he beat the crap out of her afterwards. It wasn't trying to kill her to hide his crime, but a beating, that in her eyes, came from pure pleasure.

There was an investigation. He had given a false identification to the Christian dating service (the screening was writing out your testimony and agreeing to certain evangelical doctrines). He was never caught (as far as she knew).

I guess my point is, not that good Christian people do horrible things (which, even that is possible) but that the surface Christian stuff is so easily to imitate or game so easily to play, that you never know. I wouldn't want my daughter going home with a stranger . . . even from church.

Jaimie said...

Ugh! Yeah. That's horrible.

I think it was just naivety on his part. (Haha, I know you aren't saying he's a rapist, but now I feel the need to expound...) Inviting someone to your house right when you meet them is something you just don't do. Also, like you said in your post, I didn't like the idea of a church that was THAT chummy. It brought up bad memories. The church might be perfectly healthy, though; I didn't get close enough to figure that part out.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit leery of being "love-bombed" myself - bad experience speaking...

I guess my struggle is "where is the line"? My husband and I will be moving to a new town in about two months, and will be looking for a new church just to attend after having been staff pastors for a number of years. Obviously, we want to make friends - so a church where everyone is ice cold and ignores us is not what we're looking for, either.

The challenge for us? We've been CHILDREN'S pastors - once we move, we'll be looking for a church where we can just fit in, worship God, and be part of a community - but our previous church work is going to come out in conversation eventually - and then we will be "targets" for any type of kids' ministry area that needs to be staffed with volunteers. And they ALL need to be staffed with volunteers!!!

I guess I'm just looking to be valued as who I am - not just what I can do for a church. And I'm 30-somethinb ;o).

Anonymous said...

"Love-bombed" is something I associate with CoGs or Moonies.

Anonymous said...

Oh, if only love-bombing was just limited to the wacky "out there" cults!! It happens everywhere, trust me :o).

Christian said...

Basically "love bombing consists of giving someone a lot of positive attention."by:christian love