When couples are newly married, I sometimes ask, “What’s the most frequent, repeat gift you received from your registry?” You can only have so many can openers after all. Answers are often amusing.
Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled, Church: Weird, Magic Fixes and discussed the human tendency to suggest odd, unhelpful “fixes” to perceived problems. When I asked church friends and colleagues, “What kinds of weird, magic fixes have you experienced in churches?” answers were also amusing. Very amusing. And while I imagined I might receive repeat answers, I did not anticipate that multiple people would respond with, “Sock hops for the young people.”
Sock hops for the young people!
Two colleagues in two different places have had people suggest that their church hold sock hops, in the hopes that young people will flock to the church building and ultimately participate fully in worship and membership. These sock hop suggestions were well meaning. After all, those who made these suggestions loved sock hops during their own teenage years. But that’s hardly a magic fix for today! Hilarious.
So here’s where all of this is going:
In this follow-up post, I would like to share some of the weird, magic fixes that people have suggested in churches. They can take many forms, but many fit this formula: “If we do ______, the young people will return.”
Then I want to close with a different list. People also told me stories of congregations serving their neighbors for the sake of their neighbors, asking nothing in return. It turns out that churches don’t need weird, magic fixes. We can just live that calling.
So here are two lists, both amazing in different ways.
- True examples of weird, magic fixes in churches (shared anonymously with permission). . .
- “If we take field trips to the roller rink, we will grow a youth group.”
- “If we have a social media policy, people will stop using social media during meetings.”
- “If ushers wear suits and ties, more visitors will return.”
- “If we give youth things to do instead of coming to church, we’ll have more youth involved in our church.”
- “If we have the same annual car wash and hot dog sale (which loses us money every year) we’ll show the community that we have a strong youth program.”
- “If we had raffles and bingos, our mortgage would be paid.”
- “If we got rid of dishwashers, more people would be involved in church.” (This is real! Someone suggested that people have less community connections these days because they don’t have to wash and dry dishes together.)
And my personal favorites. . . that is, in addition to the TWO sock hop suggestions. . .
- “If we had an auto repair school, youth would get connected here.”
Are you ready for this, because this is real!
- “If we had a Titanic Dinner on the 100th anniversary of its sinking with period costumes, the youth would serve the meal for us and love this church.”
Church folks can certainly come up with some interesting ideas! But you know what else? They can also love their neighbors for the sake of their neighbors.
2. Here are some real things churches are doing these days to love, serve, and connect with others.
- “We serve dinners at local shelters and provide meals to college students.”
- “We have literally kept families from going homeless.”
- “We host an after-school program for students that tend to fall through the cracks.”
- “We invited refugees to a day of celebration and welcomed them to our city.”
- “We hold support classes for children whose parents are going through divorce.”
- “We support NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).”
- “We provide a warming day-shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness.”
- “We offer free space in our building for many groups and local organizations from the wider community.”
- “We provide transportation for children so they can visit their parents who are incarcerated.”
These examples aren’t magic fixes. Rooted in faith, these are beautiful examples of human beings honoring the worth of human beings. And it turns out, commitments like these are enough. Ministry for its own sake is abundantly more than enough.