If you don't like your church, change it

If you don’t like your church, change it

This morning, a parent of one of the students in the youth group I pastor came into my office with a host of complaints. While she and the rest of her family believed in the current path of the church, her daughter — a young adult — didn’t.

The parent then reeled off her daughter’s list of grievances: there wasn’t enough space for her to grow in her faith; there wasn’t enough variety of planning to keep her interest level high; she didn’t really enjoy the people who were part of the group (because her interests didn’t seem to be their interests). And I could go on.

As I listened, I had a bizarre, almost out-of-body, experience. Half of me sympathized with this young woman. I recall how in my church growing up, I didn’t necessarily feel as though I belonged. The people were nice enough, but it just didn’t feel as though I could put down any roots there. I would even say, “It’s my parent’s church, not MY church.”

But the other side of me responded the way any red-blooded young adults’ pastor would. Rather than casting a net of blame, you should BE the one who initiates growth and alters the landscape! The old adage applies: “If you don’t like something, then change it.”

Being proactive (or rather, being a lack thereof) is one of the reasons why so many churches in North America are floundering. (By the way, this transcends generational lines. We are all guilty at one point or another of this infraction.)

We want change, we want to grow, and we want to be part of a group where we can belong. But we don’t want to be catalysts in bringing about that change. So we grow complacent. We become apathetic. We begin to believe the lie that things will never shift, simply that “it is how it is.”

In turn, these thoughts cause us to look to other avenues in order to find that sense of belonging. This may be why so many people abandon the Church, claiming there is no place for them.

As I listened to this young woman’s list of complaints, I wondered, “Was she coming to church simply to receive? Did she view her church community as anything more than an automatic banking machine — coming once a week in order to get what she needed until the next transaction?”

To say that a sense of belonging isn’t important is missing the point. To the contrary, a sense of belonging is the foundation of any healthy relationship, our relationship with God being no exception. But too often, we’re prepared to pull the chute on any group that doesn’t immediately meet all of our pre-determined needs. We jump from community to community, hoping our feelings will be different there, not realizing that in order to feel truly fulfilled, truly at peace, we must first become servants.

It’s a paradigm shift, and it’s not easy.

I’m still learning these lessons. Often I catch myself being overly critical of others — it’s a dangerous place to be, and one that requires much prayer and repentance.

So, if you find yourself within this tension — a sense of “this community of people just isn’t working” — know you are not alone. But before you immediately look for the exit, pray through those next steps. Sure, God might be calling you to move somewhere different, but maybe, just maybe, He may be calling you to give sacrificially for the sake of those around you.

Flickr photo (cc) by dicktay2000