January 1, 2013

Church & Family: Part 1

The holidays provide an opportunity for many of us to spend time with family we don't often see. This is certainly the case with my family as all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins descend on my Grandma's house. Our family Christmas party provided a chance to hang out, catch-up, and for the first time I can remember in my 34yrs (I turn 34 tomorrow), a great conversation about church.

I'm not sure what it's like at your family gatherings but for us, the kitchen is one of the best places for conversation. Maybe it's the close proximity to the food and drinks that makes the kitchen the perfect place for congregating but for as long as I can remember, it's been that way at my Grandma's.

It was there in the kitchen that our conversation turned to church. It was great to hear from a few of my relatives about their feelings concerning church. From a family that has very strong Roman Catholic roots, here are a couple things I learned about their thoughts and experiences with church, which I also assume might be common for many others...

1. How a church manages its money matters. The issue of money came up a couple of times and was accompanied by lots of passion. There was frustration at money misspent, the perception that pastors were getting rich off the congregation, and the constant talk of needing to give more to the church. It seems as though one of the best ways to help alleviate these concerns is through financial transparency. I was somewhat surprised at how big a deal the issue of money was and this proved to be a helpful reminder.

2. People are looking for authenticity. We're all hypocrites in one way or another but the challenge becomes how we navigate that with each other. I heard my family members talk about their desire to not only find an authentic pastor or priest but feel as though they were welcomed despite their short comings. The Church must constantly remind individuals it's not about getting the mess of life figured out before you show up but that the Church can be a place of support in the messiness of life, which leads me to my next point...

3. A sense of family is important. I heard family members talk about friends who attended churches that supported, provided, and cared for each other. This was EXTREMELY attractive to my family members, and I would guess most people as well. It was heartbreaking to hear of the experiences my family had with churches that failed to show support and seemed to be incredibly inward focused. We must do a better job as the Church of being the Body of Christ, a body that loves, challenges, and supports the other parts of the body.

Did you have any conversations about church with your family? If so, tell us what they were like. 

In part 2 of this post, I'm going to spend a little time talking about the difficulty of talking faith with family.


Holly said...

As a retired United Methodist pastor, I consider the first issue to be the most disturbing. According to our polity the local church can pay the pastor as MUCH as they want to do so--there is NO limit. So we have some pastors who are indeed rich. This is NOT consistent with the Gospel of Christ. Pastors in our system have exploited their congregations.

I tried to address this by submitting a petition to General Conference, but since we generally elect our "most successful (aka "rich")pastors to General Conference my petition did not pass. Perhaps it will in time--if we are touched and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here is a blog post I wrote that addresses the issue of clergy compensation, that I believe is relevant to your post.