Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Church fatigue

Went on a little Google hunt this evening. First, church fatigue. Results were mostly stuff about people visiting too many European cathedrals in the same vacation...sounded more like architecture fatigue to me.

Then I tried "church fatigue" -- in quotes -- and found this post from a guy in France I've never read before. He touches on what I'm feeling lately in his opening paragraph:
“Every church member who loves the church will also be deeply pained by it. This does not, however, call for discarding the church, but for reforming and renewing it.” This quote so reflects my thinking about the Church at the moment that I thought I’d share it with you. It comes from Transforming Mission by D. J. Bosch.
Thing is, I'm totally on board with reforming and renewing. But I feel like I have few reliable companions in the effort, at least within my own local community of faith.

When I was on church staff, we studied church growth patterns and discovered we were a textbook case of many churches our size -- stuck at a plateau. And, for various reasons, we're still stuck there. From my angle, one of the reasons we're stuck is that people keep discarding our congregation (I realize the textbook above posits a pretty solid theory as to why this happens, but the fact remains: it happens). I've seen a lot of people come and go at my local church, which bothers me. It also bothers me that I've let that very thing bother me for years...the going, especially.

My view leaves me bitter, and thus less able to be a reformer, a renewer, a co-creator with God.

There are inspired and dedicated people in our congregation working hard at effective mission and ministry. On my better days, I believe I'm one of them, and I see the difference we're making in the name of Christ. On my worse days, I make a mental list of families who've transferred to larger congregations in other suburbs (and where we live, there are plenty from which to choose while still remaining in the UMC). And on my absolute worst days, I wonder if I could back off and be one of those people who devotes just an hour a week to Christianity and thinks that's more than enough.

Where am I tonight? Well, I guess I'm somewhere between worse and worst. But more than anything, I'm just so flippin' tired.

So, I'd better go get some sleep, because I certainly won't get it tomorrow... Wednesdays are rehearsal nights, after all, and Easter's coming.

Please, Lord, let Easter be coming. Within me.


Linda said...

Wow... sounds like you've hit "the wall", and I'm very impressed that it's held out this long for you! I hit mine after about two years of working with my local church high up administration, as you know. Of course, my local church high up administration is notorious for sheltering pedophiles, so at least your branch of Christianity is behaving "better", if such a thing can be said.

I think it's true of any corporate-like organization, religious or spiritual or not, that the larger it gets, the more danger there is of losing the original focus. I've seen it happen in my church, in businesses large and small, and try to not be bummed out by it myself.

Hang in there, and know that your efforts aren't in vain. I'll be praying for you. Hugs and love!!

-Fellow Flippin' Tired Girl

daverichards said...
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DogBlogger said...

Linda, you've told me it sounds like I've "hit 'the wall'" at least twice before. I don't think I have a "wall" in the same way you do. I'm not walking away and taking a job outside the church.

I'm just sayin'...

LutherLiz said...

Preach it sister. I completely know where you are coming from. Sometimes there is so much that seems wrong and nothing that ever changes. In fact people are scared of the change even if it could improve the life of the church. People leave and shop around for the church with the best amenities (are we a hotel?!) and we are left with pieces and holes where we have valuable people to our ministry instead.

It does come and go. There are days when it is better and there are days when I'm so tired of it all I just want to sleep for a week and then even then possibly quit. But I don't.

I find it helpful that even Jesus seemed to get frustrated by the people of his ministry and mission. They just didn't get it. The disciples were dumb. They were clueless, and no matter how hard Jesus tried to tell them what is what they still were confused.

Or what about the Israelites wandering in the desert. Free from slavery they forget that and worry about whether God will still take care of them...didn't he prove he already would? Poor Moses, I would have had problems ministering to that crowd.

We may be no better now, but I remain confident that God can still work in this broken and fickle world we live. Good Friday is coming and Easter after that. Try to take some time to rest and worship for our own self, maybe there will be some more hope then.

But know that you aren't alone.

mompriest said...

Yes. I cycle through all those thoughts, feelings, realities as well. Perhaps it is just life in the Church today, a body (corporate and individual) struggling to live and a body seeking to know who it really is in this complex world. Have you read "Christianity for the Rest of Us"? (Diana Butler Bass, next book in the RevGals book club...) I found it helpful, although I found Diana Bass' presentation even more helpful,(she spoke to alumns at my seminary) the first half of the book is a little top heavy in theory while in person she is witty, insightful, and inspirng.

Anyway, yes. Tired. And sleep doesn't always fix the fatigue.

Deb said...

No, I hear you.

Part of it is a mentality of "shoppers" vs "worshippers" (we have this where I'm training and we are geared to the "shopper" (new or nonbeliever).

Part of it is people -- blast it, they all come with foibles and frailties.

And part of it is that the battle we fight is not REALLY against flesh and blood, or programs and statistics... it is a spiritual one and sometimes it is just wearisome.

But in those shining moments when God shows up and you KNOW you are doing what is asked of you... man, it is WORTH it!

Hang in there - God's peace and love surround you!


hipastorzwife2B said...

I think I get it, so bear with me...as a former "shopper". Some churches aren't right for me (?), and I know the "amenities" are right down the road. And that those folks love God too.
But I wish that folks would visit and stay with us, that they would be happy with what we offer or even better, that they'd be willing to try to contribute to our church, so it could become more of what they want.

Linda said...

Well, I first hit my wall when I had mentioned, but repeatedly hit it because I stayed on for three years after, still working to do some good in my church. I was just thinking (in my tired state) that it sounded like you'd hit yours again, but yeah, I don't mean it in the "quit now while you're ahead" way at all! Just the "Oh damn, let the spiritual dark night end soon!" way. :-)

Love and hugs and prayers,

Linda said...

It just occurred to me how to describe "the wall" I mentioned - it's like when you're in a great relationship but you're struck with the weight of "the honeymoon is over." I don't have the experience with that in the church membership realm, as I believe everyone has to find the best environment for developing / fostering his / her personal relationship with God, but I do agree that people should, um, commit to purchasing instead of perpetually shopping around for The Ultimate Church Experience (tm).

Then again, maybe God wants your church to be the size it is, to better minister to the people who come and go in your geographical area? Try not to let it get to you too much. :-)

More love and hugs and prayers,

Scog Blog said...

I have a wall and sometimes I feel like I am just bashing my head against it. If Church was only about the frustrations and the tiredness \nd the challenges there would be even fewer leaders!

Thank God that occassionally it all makes sense!

'May you rise on eagles wings, may you run and not grow weary'

Oh how I live for that day!!

the reverend mommy said...


At my last church, we blew right past that plateau and it weren't purty. We just were not ready -- we didn't have program in place for all those people and it was just really bad.

Be strong and take courage.

and I'm tired too....

Anonymous said...

When people have left our congregation, I feel a personal responsibility...like I didn't do enough to keep them involved, make them feel cared for, etc. Hmmm...probably some great psych experiment in there somewhere.


DogBlogger said...

You, too, j? I'd be right there with you in that psych study...