Monday, July 31, 2006

Riddle me this.

A question for all you church goers out there, clergy and otherwise:

What prevents people from participating in church related activities, particularly those meant to engage their spiritual side?

The background:

My church, where I'm currently employed as Director of Children's Ministry, has been working its way through the Natural Church Development process, which is meant to identify your church's weakest area of eight necessary parts of a successful church and then subsequently help you improve your weaknesses. For more information, see the ELCA on the subject here.

Our weakness proved to be passionate spirituality which is the case for many of the Lutheran churches who participate in NCD (Need-oriented Evangelism also scores low). Passionate spirituality has to do with how we live our lives as Christians, how to be passionate for the church and for Christ and inspiring others as well. Our NCD stuff breaks this down into three sections: study of scripture, an active prayer life and joyful stewardship. So basically we are called to pray, learn about God and share freely what we've been given if we are passionately spiritual people.

The theory of NCD says that by working on your weakest area that you will improve your church as a whole, so we've emarked on a year-long attempt to improve the church's passionate spiritualty. We have a committee (we are Lutherans at heart!) and have had focus groups and last wednesday the program staff, committee and church council met to begin working on a plan for the church.

Amazingly enough (hehehe) very little was accomplished. It was difficult to remove ourselves from the nebulousness of pasisonate spirituality into the reality of practical steps. But one facet of our conversation involved why people participate in the church, whether it be teaching, or attending adult forums or being on the prayer chain or anything beyond passive worship attendence.

At our church we can plan a wide variety of adult education activites for example, often at people's request because they think it would be interesting, but inevitably the same 10 people show up. So we asked why. Two choices that we came up with are fear and being busy. Fear of looking stupid, or not knowing the answers, or sharing with others or being open to discussion about God. Or being too busy to take the time to do something to deepen your relationship with God, or putting yourself last or whatever. But those seem to be surface answers of a larger problem.

I'm not sure if these are the answers, and I'd love to hear from others. Ask those around you. Send them here to post. Forward this to your friends, put a link on your blog. I want to know why people take the time in their lives to participate at church. Give me examples, give me reasons, give me stories of things that have worked (particularly you church staff out there). I'm curious to know if we are an isolated case or if this is a larger problem. If you do participate why? If you don't, why? If you want to but haven't, what is holding you back?

Ultimately our conversation was halted because those sitting at the table discussing it were not the people saying no. We'd already said yes. If you have insights I'd love to hear them!


MoSup said...

Hi Liz, I'm grateful for your blog link! Such a great way to stay in touch. I'd say that what seems to work best for us is doing one-time events. People have a hard time commiting to an ongoing project -- like a Bible study -- but they LOVE big one-time events. If you want to know more about it, I'll tell ya on msn. Lots of love!

David said...

I share your concerns on this topic and have often run up against brick walls trying to get folks energized. I am not a fan of programs such as NCD. I find that they tend to focus too much on success, and too little on the gospel.

I made a post on my blog addressing my concerns on this issue. Not by any means meant to give a difinitive answer...only a suggestion on where to start.

God be with you and all of us as we try to get our congregations lively and healthy.

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