Spirituality for Everyday Life
What Prompts Someone to Walk Into a Church? ~
As the new pastor of a church which once welcomed an overflow congregation of 1,000 to two Sunday morning services and now fills less than ten percent of the sanctuary each Sunday morning, I wonder a lot about this question: What prompts someone to walk into a church? To attend a worship service there? To seek counseling from the pastor? To ask for tangible help from the staff ~ a box of food, or a bus pass, or money?
Increasingly, it seems that the answer is: Nothing. People who do not presently participate in the life of a religious congregation seldom see any reason to do so.
Most of the young people I know, including my own 20-something children, who were raised in the church for at least several years, no longer spend time in church communities or see faith as a significant dimension of life. Most of the adults I know as close personal friends, outside my ministry milieus of church and spiritual direction, have no connection to the life of the church.
The church I served for the past two years was located in a very small village in a rural part of the state. I often took long walks through the little town, so small that it took two figure-eights to equal my usual three miles, stopping to talk with anyone and everyone I encountered. Some belonged to churches in the nearby county seat, but most looked shamefaced when I mentioned our beautiful white building across the square, and mumbled something about being “too busy” on Sundays, or simply “not really interested.”
What is it, I wonder, that might instill in someone the desire to walk, unannounced and unsure, through the front doors of a sanctuary on a Sunday morning?