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Switch to Forum Live View Managing Interest Groups in Your Congregation
4 years ago  ::  May 19, 2011 - 4:48PM #1
tawonda
Posts: 4,367

Regular readers here know that my church has been revamping its education/worship program for little kids; that we've basically scrapped the 19th century model of Sunday School and have instead gone to a homeschooling religious ed program for parents. Meanwhile we've retooled our Sunday worship in various ways to make it more little-kid inclusive. We did all these things in response to what young families told us were logistical problems with the way we'd been structuring our children's program before.

Theoretically I'm all for getting young families more involved in the life of our congregation and for helping little children feel that they too are important members of the Church, which they are. But practically speaking, I do not enjoy a lot of the "kid stuff" we've incorporated into worship; and my better half, a vet with PTSD, simply can't cope with the "Joyful Noise" service we're holding once a month, where the kiddos play rhythm-band instruments during hymns. So we've decided, as a family, that on Joyful Noise Sunday we'll go to another church...not as a protest; not because we're angry; simply because it's not a service for us; we're not in the intended demographic.( Last month we went to the Episcopal church where I meet with my spiritual director; it was a nice, peaceful service, and it's always fun to do a little "church tourism.")

I'm guessing that other churches struggle with a dynamic of trying to serve diverse groups of worshippers: young families; older adults; single professionals; immigrants/ethnic minorities within a larger congregation; "town vs. gown."  And I know from experience that it can be hard to do this without inadvertantly pitting one group against another.

Anyone else want to share some experiences about juggling different types of worship in order to serve different populations in one's congregation?

And -- is it okay to not want to attend church on a special Sunday that's just not my cup of tea? Is it better to take one for the team and represent, even though it doesn't feel very worshipful/meaningful to be there, or is it better to gracefully bow out on that Sunday and be a grateful visitor at another church?

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4 years ago  ::  May 19, 2011 - 10:17PM #2
AFSkypilot49
Posts: 35

To the last question first.  Yes, it is okay to step away from such services especially if they cause problems for you.


But you raise an interesting point.  How do we minister to those with PTSD.  Where many modern vets have gone back into combat four and five times they are coming out with some serious problems.    I think this is an issue that you might want to share with your church council--not in the way of objecting to the Joyful Noise crowd, but in the way of reaching out to those who find themselves struggling with traumatic issues with alternative programs like, for instance, a Taize service or a meditation service in the evening.


Our previous pastor always said when we welcomed a new member into the congregation, the congregation changes forever.  We have certainly seen a lot of changes in our congregation over the years, some of the things I have welcomed and even had been a change agent.  Some of the things I have not bee particularly fond of, but I have been able to adjust to the new fangled things.  It is a part of every vibrant congregation. 

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4 years ago  ::  May 20, 2011 - 7:42AM #3
tawonda
Posts: 4,367

PTSD is a very difficult affliction that can get triggered by seemingly random things. Better Half struggles with crowds and loud noises -- there have been instances where we've been grocery shopping at Meijer's (regional big-box store with a ginormous supermarket) on a busy weekend, and suddenly I've found myself all alone with a half-filled cart because BH became overwhelmed by the people and noise and had to run out of the store to the car and regroup...was sitting there shaking...I had to drive home. It's hard to explain that to people sometimes, especially when there's a perception that we're being snobby or antisocial.  (We like Holden Evening Prayer, BTW, because it's quiet and meditative.)

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4 years ago  ::  May 21, 2011 - 12:40AM #4
AFskypilot
Posts: 352

Tawonda:  I hear you.  Many times you probably feel you are walking on eggs because you will never be sure what will trigger the event.  Is your spouse going to counseling or to a support program?  I know the VA has really been working at helping vets who suffer w/ PTSD.

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4 years ago  ::  May 26, 2011 - 2:11AM #5
TomeReader
Posts: 70

Tawonda


There's nothing wrong with going elsewhere for a Sunday when one's health is concerned. In my church in Nashville, we had some women who liked to immerse themselves in their perfume. On the Sundays my asthma was flaring a little I'd just use my inhaler. On the Sundays it was flaring a lot I'd just stay home.


Would the two of you be able to start an informal additional service, even if it was without the Eucharist? One that was quiet and contemplative in nature. Then your partner could worship without the risk of her PTSD being triggered.


Lynn

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3 years ago  ::  May 30, 2011 - 8:44PM #6
Memiller
Posts: 16

May 20, 2011 -- 7:42AM, tawonda wrote:


 (We like Holden Evening Prayer, BTW, because it's quiet and meditative.)




We did Holden Evening Prayer this Lent for mid-week -- I cantored, and came to like it quite a bit. I would not call "Let my Prayer Rise Up" as quiet, exactly, not the way we do it; the piano part is quite exciting, and the canon between cantor and congregation is very dynamic.


To your more general point, our congregation (in Kalamazoo, which has WMU's school of music and quite a sophisticated musical contingent) has wanted to keep our classical tradition, yet add more elements such as an 'ensemble' of vocalist, guitar, bass, and piano in addition to the choir, in order to explore more contemporary music. That is fine by me.


I would find the little ones with rhythm instruments jarring. I think that is an aesthetic mistake. They can participate by learning to sing. If they can't sing yet, well, they can learn. I would hate that to be a regular thing, and I would hate to absent myself for that reason. I am in worship every Sunday I can be (which is nearly every Sunday of the year) because this is my family. The members of the family defer to each other, but there are clear roles. I really feel for you if this is a frequent occurance.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 2:07PM #7
dearwatson
Posts: 168

One of the problems with managing interest groups in a church is how much of a commitment to incluseiveness there seems to be. 


For example, since the founding of the ELCA,  the instrument of inclusiveness has been the imposition of quotas (60% lay/ 40% clergy/  50% female / 10% people of color or ESL) for all committees, task forces, assemblies, and other organs of the church institution. Quotas over-represent interest groups and under-represent traditional or monocultural leaders.


In a small congregation,  wanting to include all perspectives by being inclusive means subordinating all perspectives to inclusion.  While this may lead to the occasional gnashing of teeth,  it is one of the basic necessities of living in Christian community.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 2:23PM #8
Truebelieverlcms4ever1980
Posts: 9

I'm a member of the L.C.M.S. and what is an interest group exactly.?? Please explain more about how this is done.?? Thank you and G-d bless, I am a follower of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 17, 2011 - 5:44PM #9
dearwatson
Posts: 168

Based on the original post,  I have taken 'interest-group' to mean any collection of individuals in a congregation advocating for a particular type of action on the part of the church. 


For example,  in my home congregation we have some perpetual-volunteer types who have a great deal of say in the usage of our facilities when we house homeless families for a week at a time.  This has obvious implications.  Similarly,  there are some who like us to have 'family-friendly' worship services every third Sunday which has a wider impact on worship life than just that hour of worship.

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