Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Church vs. Family

A new study reveals that an increasing number of American Christians see time at church as a competitor with time devoted to the family. It attributes this trend to overcommitment in all spheres of life:

The phenomenon of overprogrammed kids in the last decade or so is well documented—to the point of satire. (A recent sitcom showed an alien begging off an invasion of Earth because his kid had "a thing.") What isn't so well documented is the effect this legion of extracurricular activities has on church life.

The pastors we surveyed report the overall busyness of families is keeping families away from church. Asked whether people are spending more discretionary time on family activities or church commitments, 76 percent said the scale tipped toward family activities. This contrasts with the perception of 62 percent of respondents that a generation ago, free time was more likely spent on church commitments. The balance has shifted.

Carol Welker, children's ministry pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida, says the impact has been felt especially in weekday programs.

"We stopped doing Wednesday night programs a couple of years ago after they just fell apart," she said. "We did a survey to find out why families stopped coming, and several said, 'That's the one and only night we have together as a family.'"

Al Mohler comments:

When "church time" is seen as a competitor to "family time," something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.

Indeed. As Andy Bryan observed some months ago, it is easy for the Church to become a place of busy-ness instead of Sabbath.


Jonathan said...

Sorry, but I must disagree. Of course churches must examine themselves to see whether they are involved in mere busyness.

But so must families. When junior is scheduled out the wazoo with sports leagues, karate, music lessons, and other activities, it is the family that has chosen its lifestyle. And in this equation anything at church comes in a far, far distant second.

Our church is primarily young families. We can barely keep the place going because pitching in at church is so far down on these people's priorities it doesn't even register. There ARE no volunteers. The mindset is that church is there to serve them on a Sunday morning (but heaven forbid someone take a turn in the nursery or teaching Sunday School), and then to provide them with ministries (done by others) that fit their lifestyles, when they want to take advantage of them. Marriage help. Help with stress. Help with finances. Parenting advice.

Bible study? Spiritual growth? Sacrifice? Pul-eeze. Try swimming upstream against this. We often don't keep our heads above water.

Art said...

I agree with the original post but I also agree with Jonathan's comment. The Church does become a place for busy-ness, especially for clergy (I imagine) and for involved lay persons (I know).

This is because of the lack of committment and volunteers. I've seen and experienced this. Pastors end up performing tasks in the church that laity should be doing and those among the laity who are known for saying "yes" get overloaded and overwhelmed. Yet there are church members who can't commit to anything because it might interfere with their exercise class or their weekly fishing trip...

Sorry, this subject touches a nerve :)

~c. said...

There is also this little thing called Keeping the Sabbath...Americans have forgotten this, in favor of 24-7 Wal-Mart/McD's/TV/you name it. Perhaps our local churches ought to start a drive to take back the Sabbath. Demand Sunday off from work (the church will fund your lawsuit if you get fired), BBQ's at church, Sunday softball...something to take it back.

John said...

Yes, it is common for 20% of the people to do 80% of the work at church. I mean ministry. 80% of the ministry at church.

I try not to condemn those who only show up on Sunday mornings. Who knows what else they're doing with their time? Are they working a 60-hour job? Are they taking care of elderly parents?

But a lot of what goes on at church is set up to compete with the programs of other churches; recruiting new members (as opposed to new Christians) can easily and mistakenly become the focus of a local church.

Maybe the people who work a job, take care of their families, exercise regularly, and only do a brief ministry on Sunday mornings, like ushering are actually the people leading healthy lives. Maybe it's the Sunday school teachers who can only stay awake with the help of coffee that have lost their way.

It's a delicate balance between sloth and workaholism (and defining ministry was work instead of as ministry), and either extreme is erroneous.

Dan Trabue said...

If I may offer an opinion: The problem is one that is part and parcel of nearly all modern Western Civilization. We have established a system that depends upon over-work. At least two people in each family need to work at least 40 hours a week in order to keep our heads above the water and even at that, we're nearly sinking.

We need, seems to me, to reclaim a different lifestyle - one that actively honors Sabbath, but to do that, we'll need to look at changing our economic system.

Seems to me.

You familiar with the Take Back Your Time efforts?

Andy B. said...

Jonathan, you wrote
"The mindset is that church is there to serve them on a Sunday morning ... and then to provide them with ministries..."

I agree with your observation and have seen similar things here. It's tricky, isn't it, to offer a counter-cultural alternative community as the church? In a consumerist culture that is always on the go, the mindset you describe is prevalant. I would offer that if people like that are unhappy with a particular congregation because it doesn't serve them and provide them what they expect, they may not really be looking for church, but rather a social club or some such thing as that. But the church ought not change what we do just to suit the consumeristic mindset so rampant in our culture, I don't think.

Quipper said...

John and Andy B.,

Many congregations around my city, including my prior congregation, look at new members and potential new members as "what can THEY DO for us?" My vocations are, in order: Christian, husband, father, employee, whatever I can make time for afterwards. I am fulfilling my callings. If I, as a Christian, am only looking at what people do "for me" or "for my church" on Sundays (Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturday mornings...ouch! That hurts!), then I am discounting their other vocations, and relying on my sight to tell me about their faith.

Finally, I can't bludgeon someone into doing work for the church. To steal some cheap motivational speaker's schtick, "They gotta wanna do it." To bash them over the head with work, obligation, etc., then use scripture to justify it, is false teaching.

Quipper said...

John and Andy B.,

I forgot to say I was in agreement with your comments. Sorry about that.

truevyne said...

From a mom in the trenches-
I don't post about things like this on my blog, because I don't like to come across as critical- but it doesn't stop me from commenting.
I love church. My family didn't go to church when I was a child, so in kindergarten I walked on my own to the church where my kindergarten was held. I still love to be there when the doors are open. I love worship. I love sermons (most of the time). I love prayer times and Bible study. I love the body of Christ in our strength and frailty.
However, I have four children who need school, rest, and time with my husband and I. Therefore, I can't do all that church activities without sacrificing my children. I know too many families who do sacrifice their children by being on all kind of Bible study, church committees, leaders of children's or adult programs, prayer teams. My husband and I could be busy every single night of the week with GOOD things if we didn't carve a specific margin.
Tell me when do these folks who do so much for the church read good books with their children? When do they play Sorry, Monopoly, and Uno? When do they have time to marvel at the stars together? When in all the busyness do families come together and pray for those they are called to love?
Don't get me wrong. I haven't abandoned my post in the children's wing, nor have I stopped working with women's ministry. My husband hasn't given up worship. We simply weigh ministry opportunities to be sure we and our children have plenty of time to enjoy one another. Otherwise, it's all for nothing when we are not loving those immediately around us with great intention.

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry I'm going thru pure hell .
Oh , I'm so sad, I found out that I will loose my home in this divorce that David is doing. I'm so tired,and too old to have to start over. This is a $200,000 home,and we only owe $139,000 And I cannot afford the payments. I have cried and prayed,and there is no other options for me. Please pray that God will open a way for me. David is hell bent on that divorce,he is so sick,and so screwed up,and so out of Gods will.
I have no one to help. Cindy my daughter is too strapped already,with 2 little ones and her husband killed in a car wreck,along with my first little grandson,my little Cody 24 months old is with Jesus today. I wish I had some investors,this house is absolutely beautiful,and so economical,the utilities are so low, I will never have a place like this again, the woods around me are so peaceful and comforting. But the $1000. a month payment I just cannot make alone. I'm sad because Like my Dad, I love walking around outdoors and working in the yard,and having trees and windows to see out of, and I'm in the last years of my life and no way out.
I'm 65,and don't have a job,I have to try to start my life over, My health is deteriating fast,probably because of all the hell I have gone thru,my knees my hip,my back,and oh God I'm so scared. I honestly do not know what I'm going to do. Cindy my daughter was going to help me,but her financial adviser told her she could not afford it, her husband that was killed with Cody,left her insurance,but it is invested for the 2 children she was left with. I just learned that today. So I will probably go completely down hill from here. I am trying so hard not to hate David for what he has done and is doing, because I know that God wont hear my prayers with hatred in my heart, please pray that I don't hate him.

Please ask everyone to pray ok?


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Anonymous said...

When the American church stands up for the morals put forth in the Bible and decides not attack fellow Christians for following it, then and only then will the church be fulfilling its mission. A church is made up of families that must be at peace first for the church to function properly. If families are not at peace the church is not at peace. I was extremely active in the church for a quite a while. Then finally the true colors of the church showed when they attacked my character and my mother's as well. Now I am struggling to find a church. No the church does not raise children. Parents do. The church should not and has no say in how parents are to raise kids. I am still shocked I had a whole church and pastor turn against me and they will not admit they did it. I put bible verses on facebook and people get mad at me for quoting the Bible. Unbelievable. Family before church.