Have you ever wondered whether your presence or your checkbook is more valuable to the church?
The church-wide desperation about finances has become so obvious that each Sunday, I expect to find the following message in the worship bulletin:
“Don’t worry about coming on Sunday. Just make certain you have paid your pledge on time.”
Lack of church attendance and a proportional decrease in monetary giving often go hand in hand. In order to fix the problem, churches follow the path of corporations and have been known to hire consultants. “Surely we can hire an expert to help us with this terrible situation,” many think.
Consultants often suggest that the church improve Sunday morning hospitality, so we respond by scurrying about, baking more cookies and shaking more hands.
Consultants claim modern worship music attracts younger people, so we ask our church musician to shift to more drums and less organ.
Consultants encourage the use of more social media, so we learn to take our cell phones to the sanctuary each Sunday. “Having a wonderful time in worship,” they tell us to post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
After all, there is nothing more inviting to a twenty-something than people over 50 posting on their phones, welcoming them to church on an early Sunday morning.
The one thing consultants rarely suggest is that we stop trying to fix a problem and reframe the experience.
Perhaps the decline in people and budget is not a thing to fix but an opportunity to observe how God works during decline.
After all, when the leaves drop in fall, we do not rush to paste them back on the branches.
We know the rhythm of seasons requires a falling away before new growth begins.
As we fully embrace this season of church ”falling away,” we may find other ways to renew our focus upon the Holy that are creative and satisfying. We can intentionally replenish our spiritual roots with prayer and song, as we ponder nurturing the faithful ones who remain in worship on Sunday morning.
As church attendance dies, we can sharply prune old practices of church business, church finances, and church involvement. We can explore overspending and overdoing. We can refocus on the importance of enough instead of grasping for more and more.
We can take more time to bring attention to the effective and healthy practices of our church community. We can then reach out in faith to the wider community, creating lines of communication that may have been lost during the season of growth. Who knows? Like the proverbial pot that waits to boil, the church may grow while we are too busy to watch!
Sure the church needs our money. Certainly regular attendance is best. Yet, a season of falling away can be embraced with joy, as we puzzle together over God’s plan for the next season.
Barbra Hardy is an orphan on God’s highway. She currently writes to find herself.