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Saturday, September 30, 2006
Just Venting
Okay, so I realize that I have recently posted on church planting already. But it's sort of at the top of my list of thoughts right now being in the midst of this massive undertaking as we are. My husband and I are really frustrated about a few things right now, and I wondered if anyone else has similar experiences. Hey, misery loves company, right? :-)

My first frustration is the number of people who griped and moaned at the start of this whole thing about how every church in our area is the same. We don't have any postmodern, community-oriented, thinking-outside-the-box, all-questions-allowed, type of churches. Blah, blah, blah. We'd definitely want to come and be a part of a faith community if you started one. Where did those people go now that we've got our ministry up and running??? I'm not sure if the whole prospect was just too scary once it was a concrete object rather than just talk or what? But, seriously, where are they?

My second frustration is that a large portion of those who are commited to our community are missing on a fairly regular basis. We've made an attempt to slow our people's lives down; we only meet once a week with a lunch afterward to provide a chance to stay and fellowship, with a very small discussion group once a week for those who want that. Why is it such a non-priority for people to stay plugged in with fellow believers? With such a small group, it seems a bit crazy that we've not once had a gathering where all of our regulars were there.

Urrgh! Well, now I've vented. Maybe someone can commiserate with me. Hopefully, you can all keep us in your prayers.


posted by Cary Fuller at 10:30 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/30/2006 11:58:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I can feel your frustration. I am sure that there are many factors that play into these senarios. Our church is transforming into this, so we are not having to start from the beginning, but I know we are dealing with many of the same things. People like to complain, and are not easily made happy. If you meet one's needs, someone else won't be happy. We too, are trying to encourage community, smaller groups, being involved etc. I think that the majority of what we have seen is that people don't like what is going on in churches, but the minute it changes, they are either too uncomfortable, pressured by others, can't get out of their own cycles etc. It may be slow coming, but keep the faith! Sometimes we just don't know what lies ahead, or where God will work. Patience and perseverance can be challenging, but sometimes can lead to the most wonderful things. Prayers for your community! :)

  • At 10/01/2006 12:42:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    Years ago, when we were the only church in town doing full-on seeker-targeted ministry--not just dabbling in the seeker-sensitive, but jumping in with both feet--we would often get visitors ("church hoppers/shoppers) who felt so refreshed when they came through the doors of our church. They were often ready to throw in the towel at their own churches, because it "felt good" to join us.

    Unfortunately, most who stayed because they thought we were the answer to all of the complaints they had at the last church were really not committed to seeker-ministry, but simply wanting a change--a fresh new way to do church. Also, unfortunately, they wanted to change us. The hardest part of what we did for those years was staying committed to what we were doing without getting sidetracked and It cost us dearly in many cases because we wanted "church" people to hang around, primarily because they were good workers/givers. (In retrospect, how sad is that...) but those were often the very same people who caused problems when they didn't get their way (i.e., when their personal agendas for what they thought church should be were not honored). Their reasons for leaving/causing trouble were often vague and mysterious--in the end, it really didn't "feel" right to them.

    Now...from seeker to emergent is a whole other story...this time around people are having a harder time. Again, we have some who feel that this new way (really, a new version of a very old way) of following Jesus is refreshing. Our leaders are passionate about what this means for our community and how transforming this may all be in the lives of people who are hanging in there. The story is still being written. I understand your questions, but I don't have any answers.

    I believe in what we are doing, but it is very painful. I've lost too many relationships to count and it has been particularly painful on the heels of so many years of struggling to understand how it is that people "do" church. I guess all I can say is hang in there...ministry is tough!

  • At 10/01/2006 01:39:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    Thank you both for your encouragement. I do believe in what we're doing, and I know that even if this doesn't come together in the end that God has had things to teach us through it all. He sends us little things like a couple who visited this morning who was so refreshing and encouraging to speak with, just enough to keep us going and to be reminded that His hand is in it all. What a wonderful Father we serve! :-)

  • At 10/01/2006 08:58:00 PM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    Hey, don't forget that Jesus experienced something similar. Remember when He said that if the people wanted to follow Him they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood? Many left after that.

    We humans don't like change, and we Americans hate it when someone tries to tell us what to do. Hang in there!!!

  • At 10/02/2006 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    Cary, when you run into people who say they'd like to be part of your new church, can you assign them roles that commit them to being there or to telling you if they can't come?

    Maybe part of the problem is that since they aren't 'needed' they don't think it matters if they show up or not.

    I know this isn't the way churches usually go but I'm guessing that if you took turns leading the meetings the people assigned to lead each week would show up.

  • At 10/02/2006 01:57:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    seriously, where are they?

    I don't know...have you asked them?

    I can only speak for myself, but my SO and I are less involved in the church we sometimes attend for the following reasons:

    - He works the swing shift, which means it's very difficult for us to make it to church some weeks.

    - He used to be scheduled to work on some Sundays.

    - He has some health issues that make it difficult for him to constantly move from one activity to the next. We have to prioritize our weeekends, and sometimes an event with extended family or his rest takes priority over church.

    I'm not saying that all of the people you've talked to have health or work issues that prevent them from coming....but a few might.

  • At 10/02/2006 04:51:00 PM, Blogger Sarcastic Lutheran

    I feel you. This is something I fear. For myself, I have just started a Theology Pub once a month...There have been probably 35 people who said they were psyched about the idea and want to be involved. How many showed up the first time? 4. (two of them being my best friend and her husband). It's so hard as a leader to have results point to God and not to ourselves (if there were 20 people then I would have struggled with pride, and since there were 4 I struggled with self-loathing) both of these reactions point to me and not to God and I don't think that's very cool, but how do we avoid that reaction? I'm planning an emerging church plant (in the future...the theology pub is the first step) and have to admit that I'm afraid of "failure", meaning that I'd feel like shit if I planted a church and no one came, know what I mean?. These are difficult things for me to admit since I'm like the super confident, super capable type (outwardly anyway)
    I read the Christian Century article about Jacob's Well in Kansas City which has 1000 members. I'm not interrested in pastoring a huge church, but still I was wondering...how'd that happen when so many of my friend's chuches struggle (moot, home, maybe, spirit garage, mercy seat). How do we plant thriving communities without playing the church-growth polka?

  • At 10/02/2006 09:39:00 PM, Blogger wilsford

    i wonder why we equate "commitment" with "being there every time the doors are open."

    is that a habit carried over from the way we think of church as a function that happens one, two, three times a week?

    we are as committed to the group of people who meet once a week as we are likely to get. we don't attend every week. if we felt as though we had to it would be sayonara baby, i can always stay home.

    our 'church,' however...the body of believers and strugglers with whom we have varying levels of relationships...to that we remain committed, on loose, undefined, yet significant terms.

    hard to explain other than to say that there's a whole lot more to being supportive than supporting the formal institution, regardless of how it sees itself.

    may or may not be helpful to you, but that's where we're coming from on the attendance issue.

  • At 10/02/2006 10:24:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    Sue, thanks so much for the encouragement.
    Helen, thank you for the practical advice. I have been trying some of that recently with some success. It's also been helpful in forcing me to delegate more and give people more ownership in our ministry.
    Lydia, good thoughts. We're so small at this point, though, that we know why the ones who are sporadic are missing. Not sure about the ones who were so gung-ho and now MIA, though. (Although, unfortunately, I've heard stories from reliable sources giving me some indication that people on staff where my husband previously was a pastor have been working against us. Very frustrating and disappointing.)
    SL, thanks so much for posting. Sorry to hear about your own experiences with this. The pub sounds like a great idea; hope it picks up for you. You'll have to keep us posted. I'm with you on the numbers thing. We definitely don't want a mega-ministry, and we've already decided that we would plant if we ever got to that point. But there is a sense of confusion over what causes similar ministries to thrive or die.
    Wilsford, I get what you're driving at. In such a fledgling community, though, it's so hard to understand that we've yet to have a single gathering where everyone was there at once. We're trying to build a tight-knit community that can support each other throughout the week and not just Sundays, so we need to get some sort of consistency going (especially since our gatherings are also our main source of fellowship for the community with our meal after the meeting). I totally agree that Church is a lot more about Mon-Sat than it is about a few hours Sun morning, but I think we have to have some sort of consistent time to exchange ideas and feed each other as a community. Thanks for the perspective.

  • At 10/02/2006 10:25:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    BTW, Lydia, sorry to show my ignorance but who is a SO?

  • At 10/03/2006 07:38:00 AM, Anonymous soldiermom

    We have the same "here and there" issues at our church in central NY. I see a lack of motivation as compared to other churches I have been in. There are very few people who actually initiate events, or get involved in the day-to-day life of the church. It is frustrating. I wonder if others experience this apparent lack of commitment. Is it part of the postmodern movement? The average age of the attendees? Are we living out grace without an understanding of responsibility? What is it about this culture that allows us to not take commitments seriously? Where is the momentum?

  • At 10/03/2006 08:34:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    We're so small at this point, though, that we know why the ones who are sporadic are missing.

    Good to know. I just didn't want you to get mad at someone for not showing up if they had a good reason for not doing so.

    Oh, and SO = significant other (i.e. a spouse or long-term girlfriend or boyfriend.).


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