Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sliding on a Slippery Slope

Hubby's not quite comfortable with my post topic for today. So I am once again starting with a disclaimer.

First, this is a churchy post, so if you're not interested in church stuff, come back tomorrow. I respect that, I get over-churched a lot too, so I won't be offended if you leave.

And second, for all the bitching and moaning I do about this church, Hubby and I like where we are. These people are like family for reasons that I can't go into on this blog. But whatever you may think after reading this post, we are not forcing the issue to leave this church. Really! I'm not just saying that because I have 2 church members who read this blog or my circle of anonymity seems to have shrunk because people are more savvy about our denomination then I thought! Okay, enough, let's tell the story, shall we?

Several months ago Hubby's earthly boss approached Hubby about the state of the church. It's not good. Our church seems to always be the "Church of the Halfway There." People who only want to attend church on Sunday and maybe, maybe put in one extra hour a month gravitate to our church for some reason and that's the way it's been for 20 years, way before our time. The church is old; old building, old members, old ideas. While the church is maintaining its membership, it's just not growing and with the economy faltering, the powers that oversee our denomination are really starting to look at the dead weight churches and asking them to account for themselves.

Our church held a study designed to revitalize ideas and set the course for a new path for the church. The Usual Suspects (our small group of strongholds) took part and tried hard to come up with a new vision for the church, to get the other people onboard and to get their butts in gear. All to no avail. 80% of the people are just people who want a Sunday worship experience and nothing more.

Now, I'm sure a lot of you are reading this wondering why that is such an issue. A lot of churches survive with just Sunday attenders. You're right, but our church is extremely old and the building is draining its finances. Our tithes are not sustaining the building, much less the cost of a full-time pastor. We haven't paid our share of our denominations missions expenses in several years (a really big no-no). All because, even though we are attracting some new members, we are not attracting enough new members to pay our bills. We are not able to compete with the YEAH God churches. You know, the mega churches where people who want to actively participate in ministries seem to go. And yes, I know, a lot of you probably go to a mega church and love them and take offense at me calling them YEAH God churches, but those mega churches are the Walmarts of the religious world. They draw people in and give you what you want and that's great and if that's what is getting people back to a spiritual base, more power to them. But the little mom and pop churches are just getting creamed in the process. If we brought in a rock praise band, our blue hairs eyeballs would fall out and there would go our biggest financial supporters. But I digress, that's not what this post is about.

Anywho, after all of this, the church still failed to meet its benchmarks that were set by Hubby's boss and the committee that oversees church staff. The church has failed to show that it is improving or even moving forward. So Hubby's boss met with the committee in a private meeting and discussed the future of the church. The committee has been asked to decide what they feel is the best thing for the church. They have been made aware that they can no longer sustain the salary of a full-time pastor on their own. The denomination has been letting Hubby stay at this church out of his sense of duty and commitment, but there are a lot of pastors retiring this year and they are having a hard time justifying letting the "Church of the Halfway There" keep someone of his caliber. And for those of you reading this thinking, "Well, if the church is failing, isn't that the pastor's fault?" It's not. There are so many factors aside from a pastor. Hubby has been highly sought after for several years. He's not the most evangelical pastor out there, but he is a quietly religious man who drinks beer and occasionally swears, but for the most part lives his life by example and people really respond to that. They see his failings and feel like that makes it okay for them to be Christian, too.

So, the big meeting took place and now there have been some smaller meetings and we are left in limbo. No one knows officially what is going to happen, but I believe the staff committee is going to start gently letting the church know that there will be a change this year and that the change will mean we will be moving on to a new church. I think the committee just doesn't have the energy to swim against the tide. They have years of experience with the people of this church and it has been made clear that any changes have to come from the congregants, not from the clergy family. I guess I am tired of swimming as well. So, I am probably looking at a packing up and moving...again.

We won't know for sure for a few months, just like we won't know where. But I'm scared. I live in a Red state, I'm quite liberal. I live in a state where you can still find doors with the old shadowy imprints of "whites only" on the outside. I live in a state where gay people stay away from certain cities out of fear for their lives. I'm always worried when a move comes up because I am a "live and let live" kind of person. And churches? Well, churches can be funny places and they can be the least "live and let live" kind of places. What if? What if my gay Catholic pagan friend finally gets off her lazy ass and comes to visit me and my new church is, well, more Old Stereotypical South than Nouveau South? What if I move to a church that has a congregant who keeps a key to the parsonage so they can walk in whenever they want? (Don't laugh, it happens). What if we move to a new church and it backs up to a cow pasture? I've been there, done that. It's just not me. What if....I know, what if's just make you old before your time. But our last church was a nightmare. I can't believe I haven't blogged about them. I guess I know what you'll be reading about for the next few days.

And what if I have to leave the ocean behind? I can't leave my ocean.



pastors wife2 said...

Hey, don't knock the cow pasture! I've lived in a parsonage that was up against a corn field in rural NC in the middle of nowhere and the people in that church were the most open minded, open hearted I have ever met. They actually were proud to say they were Democrats!! And on more than one occasion I heard one or more stand up for legal abortions (in support of those who've had to make that decision and to prevent those back alley ones from reappearing) and the rights of homosexuals. And while I hated that we were so far from "civilization" it was far more civil and Christian than a lot of churches that are smack-dab in the middle of cities and even some of those mega churches. It was refreshing and renewing to be in the midst of such love and compassion. Just be open to what God will bring. He has ways of giving us amazing gifts in unexpected places! Moving away from the ocean just gives you a very important excuse for ROAD TRIP!

Living in Muddy Waters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cbrks12 said...

So sorry that you are in limbo. Sometimes that is the hardest place because you can't actively look forward to leaving or be happy you are staying.

Some churches just aren't going to thrive no matter what is done. And since we don't know God's plan - blah, blah...fill it in! :)

You've had your bad church, you've had your dying church, maybe the next one will be THE church.

That said...I would miss the beach too!

Anonymous said...

"What if my gay Catholic pagan friend finally gets off her lazy ass and comes to visit me"

Bee-yatch I am so NOT Catholic. Just gay, pagan and Lazy... and I TOTALLY just called the Pasotrs wife a Bee-yatch! Hahaha!

And when my lazy ass comes to visit you if your church is old southern, I will simply put on my bonnet and make eyes at a cute southern boy. It's all good!

Giving up the Ocean, though, that is REALLY the suck....

Lazy Andie! :-)

Jeannie said...

I'm amazed that you seem to have no say in where you end up so I can appreciate not wanting to move. Still, it's a new beginning somewhere where your talents will perhaps get a chance to bloom. Or not.

My husband is trying to get me to join him at his buddy's unusual (could be Mega) church. I dunno - I can't be bothered going to our little stagnant church where at least people know who I am.

Anonymous said...

Sucks that you don't know where you might end up. I wouldn't want to leave the beach either!! I'm sure your parents will be sad if you move too far.

BUT, with all of the other things going on (work, SC, E's teachers, etc.). Maybe this is the key to a fresh start??

Can't they give Hubby alternative churches to choose from?


Anonymous said...

Wow. It stinks not knowing where you could end up. And I would be hard pressed to leave the ocean, too. The saddest thing is that it's through no fault of your own. I know congregants like these, and it sure ain't easy. Maybe this is the avenue to all good things?

The funniest thing - my work verification starts with C U L T.

/ dw

Anonymous said...

duh - WORD verification.

/ dw

Bubblewench said...

I'm sorry to hear that. I'm just catching up over here and will continue to read today to see what is happening.

Big hug to you. I know this must be difficult.