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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why not?

Last week Carman posted a long and heart-felt essay about why folks do or do not come to church on Sundays. A couple of folks offered wonderful and heart-felt reasons why they do try to come to worship every Sunday if they can. No one responded with a reason they might not, though Carman offered to listen without judgement. Here are a few reasons I’ve heard over the years:

• Because someone thoughtlessly (or not) said something in a sermon, in a class, in the kitchen after a potluck that made me feel small or unworthy or angry or offended and rather than confront them I/we just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because it’s become apparent that the building, the carpet, the walls, the windows, the organ, the piano, the flower beds, the coffee maker are more important than the people and rather than get into a fight about it I/we just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because something happened in my/our life, our family…that kept me/us away for awhile and nobody called or checked in with us but when we returned they invited us to sign the guest book, or they didn’t notice we were gone at all so I/we just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because we’re already working two jobs to make ends meet, or pay child support, or keep up the payments or whatever and don’t need another job that seems to go with being a “regular” at church, so we stopped being “regular” and just got out of the habit of going on Sundays.

• Because I don’t believe what I’m supposed to anymore and if I keep going someone’s going to realize that I really don’t belong there and it’s just easier not to go on Sundays.

• Because I needed time to heal from something (a death, a suicide, a miscarriage, another major loss, a…) and someone implied I should be “over that by now” and I’m not, so I just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because the world is such a petty place with people treating each other in hurtful and nasty and rude ways that when I/we started noticing that church really wasn’t much or any different we just stopped going on Sundays.

Now I know it’s quite possible to respond to any one of these reasons/excuses in a logical, faithful, even positive and helpful way. I also know there are people out there on the margins who don’t come to church on Sunday for these or any one of a thousand other reasons. There are more; I just listed this few for you to think on. Is there something you want to do about it?

Posted by Marion


  1. Worship seems like all that any particular congregation does any more. No more children's programs, no after-school activities, no Temple School courses, and certainly no community outreach. Worship, without more, can get pretty empty pretty quick. Even harder to convince people to spend their money to keep a building open that is usually used one or two hours a week.


  2. This is a pretty broad brush you're swinging there :-)

    In this area there are plenty of very busy, very open and active congregations--not All, mind you, but many!

    I'm quite booked up for TS weekends in the coming season, am looking to recruit other teachers and I'm finding them. This is good!

    And I can think of more than one congregation with regular "outreach" programming, active mid-week activities of one sort or another.

    Sometimes, in fact, the problem is of too much busy-ness, too little balance and analysis of what our mission is supposed to be. Are we about doing what matters most or are we just keeping this hamster wheel spinning?

    Thanks for your observation though. If I were a member of such a congregation I would be discouraged too. Maybe others will join our conversation.

  3. I don't dispute there are congregations like this - even more than one. But of all the congregations I have known, and I've known a few - most are open Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings and 90% of their budget and time goes to preserving the building for these activities.

    Is your experience different?

  4. Probably not so very different. But then, neither am I so sure that the "ideal" I'd want is a church building that's so busy people feel an obligation to preserve it, or to preserve its activities.
    I think we're dealing with a bit of tension here. If my congregation's building is empty because the people are engaged in what we're choosing to call "mission" just now, then maybe we don't need a building at all.
    But maybe the worship (or whatever) that happens inside the buidling has created the motivation, the impetus to get out into the world, then that's good, isn't it?
    Of course maybe it's just empty because people have decided it's not their priority, or any of the reasons listed in the original post.
    I know it's a struggle that our Fired Up! group has been struggling with. They are the "congregation with no fixed address." So no building not to be open or closed. But this too brings its challenges.
    It's complicated, I agree. Then when you bring in the budget, as indeed you must, the complications multiply.

  5. "Because something happened in my/our life, our family…that kept me/us away for awhile and nobody called or checked in with us.........."

    "Because I don’t believe what I’m supposed to anymore..............."


    These 2 reasons resonated with me here. At least in part.
    We go but not as regularly as we did in the past. To my recollection no one has ever asked why or enquired about what has been happening in our lives.
    Are we OK? How is your faith?
    What have you been doing and why?

    And we have changed. I don't see things the same as I did 30 years ago. But we do attend from time to time as we feel there is a place for us and that we belong somewhere in this organization. Also the people are friends so there is a connection there.

  6. I just checked our budget and in 2009 44% was spent on the facility, 28% on Charity, 16% to Communications, 9% to Education, 2% to Outreach and 1% to Worship.

  7. Our congregation is one of the busy ones: two worship services on Sunday morning with church school sandwiched in between. There is a potluck and/or fundraising dinner at least once a month. Monday nights are council or priesthood meetings, Tuesday night the Children's Aid has supervised visits and we're not allowed to go there, Wednesday night (once a month) is Prayer Share, Thursday afternoon is Bible study, Friday afternoon is a games time, Friday night we host a dance class and there is usually one special event on a Saturday each month (temple school, 50th anniversary, special birthday celebration, Camp staff training etc. We have 5 or 6 fundraising dinners a year, some at the church and some off site; the proceeds go to World Accord's CORDI women's shelter. In addition to that we have two or three women's groups meeting in homes and a knitting group that makes vests for World Accord and mitts and hats for the Mitten Tree. They also sell things and give the proceeds to Ziontario. Our community outreach includes Highway Cleanup twice a year and holding special events to which the neighbourhood is invited with flyers and sometimes personal invitation. These events have included a community garage sale, Hallowe'en Party, Christmas Party, an invitation to our Christmas concert and Good Friday breakfast (twisted, I know.)

    It's nearly impossible for one person to go to everything and sometimes I feel like the hamster on the wheel as many of these things are supported by a few people and sometimes it's hard to get workers for some of the events.
    If I stopped going to church, it would be because of burnout and needing a rest.

  8. Wow Robert, I think this should keep even the most eager Chicken busy going to church! If that's what he's looking for.

  9. I'm back home after having been away for eight days without internet access, and starting to catch up. I am particularly interested in your comments,TPau.

    Without knowing the details or even the congregation involved (or 'not involved' as the case may be), your recollection that "no one has ever asked why or enquired about what has been happening in our lives" makes me sad. With all the specific priesthood ministries built into our faith group, how is this even possible? And yet it is.

    On the other hand, your second point strikes me quite differently. I suspect there are very few church members who still see things the way they did 30 years ago. This is a bi-product of many elements, not the least of which is the rapid expansion of knowledge and understanding in our world. I believe it is one of the great strengths of our movement that we can update our understanding on some issues and quietly discard others without being thought less of. There are also risks in this for our faith group, but surely we must appreciate a church that doesn't proscribe exactly how we must each think.

    One comment makes me sad, and one makes me glad. Thank you for sharing your thoughts TPau. If there is more you or others would like to say about this, I would be glad to hear it.


  10. Robert - sounds wonderful! Congratulations on the apparent success of your congregation.

    I didn't, however, hear if you were answering Marion's question as to why people choose not to worship with you? It sounds like it would be a good experience.

  11. I'm not sure if Robert is coming back to check on responses to his comment. He did say in his original message that this post was "in response to the unused building" commenter.
    We'll have to wait to see if he has more to say about the worship experience.

  12. OK, I'm a little late in my comments on this thread.

    The one reason I didn't see in anyone's list about "why not" was that the programming (corporate worship) hold no interest or value for the person.

    I want very much to be part of a congregational community. I have absolutely no interest in - and generally find no personal value in - attending corporate worship services.

    The Community of Christ purpose statement is to create communities of joy, hope, love and peace. So we have community in our name and community building in our mission statement.

    I just don't find that attending corporate worship services has anything to do with creating community. And yet, in the congregations I've been involved with, it's the only game in town.

  13. I agree; this exact reason isn't given. But I'm hearing (let me know if I'm wrong Chicken) some of that in the very first response. If we're only there for a couple of hours a week, when/how will be build community? And if we're only engaged in the corporate worship ("the only game in town") of those couple of hours and that doesn't motivate us to do more, then there must be something seriously lacking in that couple of hours.
    One of these days I'll have to tackle a thought about Spirituality Types too.
    Thanks for your comments Joan--always value your input :-)


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