I had a rather difficult conversation with a friend from church who I haven’t talked to in a while. And while I was grateful I could offer advice and listen to the pain they were experiencing, it left me unsettled. Both mad and sad.
Have you ever felt that way?
This friend spoke about some frustrations in church life, the desire to be recognized as a leader after many faithful years of volunteering, and simultaneously the loneliness and hurt they were feeling within the church by peers. In both areas it seemed like they felt forgotten.
It’s a difficult topic to try to uncover but I feel like it needs to be said..even if it’s not eloquent and way too wordy.
Now, I’ll give it my best try.
For much of my life I have witnessed…unsavory parts of church. Unsavory because..let’s be honest, just because people are Christians and attend church, doesn’t mean they still can’t be mean or worldly. I don’t think it is humanly possible to enforce perfect and ideal treatment within the church, but I also think there are some things I notice within my own church and quite honestly, every church I have attended that cause me sadness.
Ultimately and unfortunately people are still people.
Now I don’t think that is abnormal. To be able to look in love at a place you call home, and see what might not be working.
So here’s my burden.
I want the pain expressed by my friend and the pain expressed to me by various other people I’ve connected with to be constructive when it comes to church staff. I want them to have an opportunity in an open forum of people experiencing the same frustrations, to speak directly with the staff who make decisions and create leaders. Often times it can seem like the higher you are within a church staff, the more you see the church as a whole and not necessarily on a granular level.
I don’t profess to know the intricacies of managing a church and its attendees but I know what it’s like to hear the anguish of a friend. I know what it’s like over the course of recent years, to teach classes to women and hear the same pain my friend expressed: the feelings of being a total wallflower even though you are actively involved or to feel like there is no place for you amongst your peers because they value the wrong things, or while volunteering to overhear other volunteers joking about “how things are.”
I wonder, if it has to be this way. At what point should you be concerned for your “body” and vocalize it?
To speak plainly..is it so wrong to wonder what your place in church is? To wonder where that person or mentor or leader is, who can guide you towards your proper calling? To notice the hard work you have put in and realize you might be ready for more? Who can release you to be more of the leader you have proven to be? How long do you wait?
Likewise do you pray and wait for the proper leader to say, hey, it’s not okay that you are feeling alone and isolated from your peers, here is what we can do?
Can’t we do better?
It can be hard sometimes to want to make your church better. I felt that after the conversation and quite frankly, I don’t feel like I have any power to change anything except what I can do in my own life for her to encourage and include her and to offer advice. But sometimes I still feel like I’m just one person and I hope for a larger change.
In some quiet time in my room I reflected on 1 Corinthians 12 MSG:
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
My heart related to “if one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt”. Because it’s true. To me, as a non-pastor, as a non-staff member, as just an attendee of the same church, I felt oddly like I let this person down.
I immediately felt like, I might not be a paid staffer of this church, but I’ve felt these pains before, and I’ve heard so many others express the same pain, so I know that it’s important, and I’ve tried in my own small way to make a difference and yet, what more do I do? And simultaneously who do I really think I am?
I suppose the final question is..
Is it human nature to feel voiceless at times in of all places, God’s house? Or do we, the Church, sometimes lose perspective?
Are churches meant to be perfect, no, but can there be more opportunities for the house of God to have “dinner talk” around the table with all members? Can we without judgement feel free to express concerns with the highest level of church, and if so, when? Where is the opportunity? Could the vantage point of people in different capacities at church be beneficial? I think so.
Would love advice or feedback below.