Monday, January 25, 2010

Annual Meetings and "Comfortable" Congregations

Maybe I just like to worry about things, I don't know.

This weekend we have the annual meeting at church.  I have to write a report.  I want to be real with the people, but I also don't want to beat them over the head.  I am not sure where I want to go with the report.

The big problem is that over the past year, no a whole lot has changed.  We changed the worship times, but we have not gained any more people.  We have lost some people over the past year, but that seems to have stopped.  We have an organist that plays twice a month, but she will be quitting soon.

We are $8000 under budget as of right now, which means asking for more money is out of the question.  But, even with the BUX job, Nick and I were still strapped for money.  Now that I am not working a second job, the money situation is bound to become worse.

I don't want to leave the church that I am currently at, but they seem to be content with the "private club" feel and do not seem to want to reach out to the community.  I would help with reaching out, but until recently, I have been working.  It feels like quite the catch-22:  I have to work a second job to keep at the church, but working a second job makes working the church job almost impossible.

I want to get the people fired up to reach out, but I don't want to beat them down because they have been beaten down before.

It feels so "rock and a hard place."  I guess it is a good thing that I am not working so that I can have some time to process this whole thing.


Urspo said...

This sounds very familiar. I was in a similar church - the elderly members didn't seem interested in getting new members - I believe they would rather watch the church fold and do the necessary interventions to keep it going. It seemed a bit selfish - the concept of " when I go, so does the church".
perhaps churches have the similar lifespan to people, they open grow decline and die off. My mother's church is experiencing a similar financial and attendance problem.

Lemuel said...

It is of small comfort to you, Ben, but the scenario in your church is being played out over and over again around the country. I do not know what the solution is. I am guessing that there may be good and faithful people in your congregation who do not deserve to be beaten over the head. They may be at their limit already. The others just do not care.
In my area there are quite frankly too many churches. Many of them are nothing more than private "family chapels". In the last decade more and more of them are closing or merging. But my analysis is that the larger mega-churches with filled pews and parking lots are no different. None of them understand the mission and ministry of the faith - outreach to and for others.

Steve F said...

Ben, Lemuel is right. In response to the question on a friend's FB "What effect does the diminishing role and stature of professional clergy have on the church's call to discipleship?", I posted this:

You'd think that the church would always have been a place to make disciples, to build people who would go out into the world and be Jesus. But for so many churches, the role of the pastor has been that of a dairy farmer: building fences around the flock, protecting them from the ravages of outside influence, and keeping everyone busy preserving the barn and the fencing. I think it's going to be a huge shift, and many churches won't be able to make it. They know what they know, and they don't want to know anything else.

A church we studied in seminary actually had a huge, energy-inefficient, tall-steeple wood-frame and stained-glass barn of a sanctuary. The place caught fire, and burned to the ground. The place was insured, and the congregation voted to REPLACE THE ORIGINAL STRUCTURE, AS IT WAS, because, as one person said, "I've worshiped there all my life, and I expect to be buried in the very same place." No question of "what we need" or "what we can afford" or "what would serve our community best" or anything like that.

Seems the best song cue for this would be "You gotta know when to hold 'em/ know when to fold em/ Know when to walk away/ and know when to run..."