3 things the church could be more mindful of: introverts, singles, and the coveting of young families 

The following has been on my heart and mind for some time. In no particular order, here are three areas that the church could be more mindful of in 2018:

Introverts.

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I’ve heard it said that our school system is designed for the kids in the middle of the bell curve. This means that there are lots of children who struggle to learn in an environment that wasn’t geared with them in mind.

Most churches would fall into a similar camp. Historically, the Sunday morning church service and the weekly church activities have been designed for a certain type of people: the extrovert.

In the past, it’s been thought that only 25% of the population are introverts. More recent studies are showing that the general population is closer to 50/50 (50% extroverts, 50% introverts). Real quick – introverts = people who recharge their energy best by being alone; extroverts = people who recharge their energy best by being with others.  Please keep in mind that an introvert can be very outgoing and an extrovert could be shy. Really.

Now let’s think about church. Sunday morning church service can be very energizing for an extrovert (lots of people/small talk opportunities). Since large, group activities are plentiful and promoted in the life of the church, extroverts can easily fuel up, while introverts may end up feeling drained and inferior. When is the last time you heard a sermon encouraging you to experience God in nature, or meditation or solitude? When is the last time you were told that meaningfully connecting with a believer 1:1 is just as holy and important as being involved in a small group? (Introverts tend to prefer 1:1 – Jesus did say that when 2 or 3 are gathered it is legitimate church.)

Now is a good time for us to remember, “not wrong – just different.” 🙂 The church needs extroverts. The church needs introverts. We need all. But what the church must stop doing is catering church services and activities for what would recharge an extrovert only. Nearly 50% of the congregation may be introverts, and if it’s not, then has the church lost its introverts? In 2018, let’s learn new ways that we can experience God by inviting more introverts to church leadership and planning.

Singles.

While I currently attend church with my husband and child, one day my husband or I am likely to attend church alone. My child will grow up and one day, my husband or I will walk this earth without the other. Hopefully this happens later rather than sooner but when that time comes, will we feel that we fit/have a place at church just as much as when we were attending as part of a young family? Months ago, when my husband and I were looking for a new church, a single friend said to me, “Churches will want you – you have a cute, young child. Try looking for a church as a single woman. No one knows what to do with me.” This statement opened my eyes and broke my heart.

If you attend church with your significant other, I’d challenge you to attend church some Sunday attempting to see it through the eyes of someone who attends church alone. Look in the bulletin or on the website for upcoming events. How many are excluding or inviting to singles? And what is the language like on the website or at church? Would someone who doesn’t attend church look at the website/promotion materials and conclude that this is a church for families and not a church for someone without a family?  This leads to the third area the church could be more mindful of in 2018.

Coveting young families.

The other night, an advertisement popped up on Facebook saying, “Every church can and should have lots of young families! Let us help you reach your goal.” As my husband read this to me, we both cringed. Many churches place a strong emphasis on wanting to be attractive to young families, and while every church can do some simple things that go a long way (like ensuring that the nursery is both clean & safe), I don’t feel comfortable with making young families the ultimate prize. All people matter to Jesus. Seniors. Singles. People with developmental disabilities. All people. When we prioritize one demographic (young families) above all the others, we should stop and ask ourselves why. Is it because we feel more warm and fuzzy about a young family joining our church than a single man? Are young families prized because we hope to ‘get more’ out of them in terms of money or volunteer commitments? And do we desire having more young families when we don’t even know what our neighborhood demographics are? Please hear me out, I have nothing against young families (I am one of them). What breaks my heart is when a church puts such an emphasis on getting young families that other people who aren’t in that demographic (who matter just as much to God) are missed.

For more on this topic (one of my most favourite blog posts ever) click here:
https://achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/when-churches-want-a-pastor-who-can-bring-in-young-families/

In 2018, can we be mindful of the above, and in our churches, can we be more inclusive of singles and introverts while discontinuing the coveting of young families? How do you relate to any of the above? Please don’t be shy if you have something to add to the conversation!

Ministry: not ideal to raise a family?

As some of you are aware, my husband is a pastor. When thinking about starting a family, thoughts of the many challenges of being in the ministry + having children come to mind. Now, let me explain, I’m not saying that those in ministry shouldn’t have children. I’m also not concluding that we shouldn’t as a result of my husband’s profession. I’d just like to write out/process some of the observed challenges that being in full-time ministry and raising a family seems to present:

  1. It’s pretty much the only profession where there are spoken and unspoken expectations on the children. The only thing close to being similar re: spotlight is being a politician or celebrities child. Sorry, PK’s (pastor’s kid), you get all the spotlight with very little dough 🙂
  2.  Speaking of dough, while Pastor’s make more now than they did back when my Grandfather was in the ministry, there are few that receive good work benefits. As a result, the pastor’s spouse may be forced to work outside of the home for the salary & benefits.
  3. Children who grow up with a parent in the ministry rarely experience going to church together as a family. In our case, I would essentially operate as a single parent every Sunday morning.
  4. Pastor’s kids have no choice in the matter. While being a Pastor’s Wife isn’t always easy, I at least had some idea as to what I was getting into. In recent years, the number of PK’s who have left the church as adults as a result of hating the experience of their father being a pastor is scary and very sad.
  5. Most are aware that the Pastor’s work schedule is challenging. He or she works every weekend (forget last minute getaways with the family!). In addition to working regular office hours, the pastor often works evenings as well. And don’t forget holidays! 🙂

For the reasons above and others, raising a family in the ministry presents its unique set of challenges. Sadly, what I have found is that very few PK’s would choose to raise children in the ministry as a result of their experience. But times are changing. There’s a new emphasis in many denominations and churches regarding pastoral health which includes things like self-care and family time. Maybe raising a child while in full-time ministry is not ideal (keep in mind that life is rarely ideal). But maybe, just maybe,  it’s becoming more (& not less) ideal with the passing of every year.

As always, I welcome your comments! If you are a PK, or are raising a family in the ministry, it would be especially neat to hear from you. Whoever you are, it’s great to hear your thoughts whether you agree, disagree, or just have a thought to share.