Friday, April 20, 2012

What are your thoughts?

As we transition to a new congregation in a very kind of neighborhood than we have ever ministered in before, whenever I have time to think (which isn't often lately) my mind is spinning about the intentionality that I want to have as we move. One of the areas is hopefully helping Bart with the development of a couple new ministries at the church. Based on the meeting that we had with the Staff Parish Relations Committee in our new church they are eager to reach their communities.

I made a list of all of my ideas and it is so long I'd have to live 4 more lives to carry them out. But I've been drawn to a couple ideas based on conversations that we had with the current pastor. I want to focus on one of those ideas in this blog post and I want to seek your input.

The church already has some experience in welcoming people with special needs and as an adoptive parent and former foster parents we have met several people who have stopped going to church because it is not a good fit for their family any more and they can't find a place that is. It makes me very sad to know that families feel that they have to give up church because of their kids.

Yesterday I had breakfast with two amazing women who may not want to be named here, but they are inspirations to me in the ways that they parent their challenging children and the ways that they have actively done things to share their expertise and gifts with the adoption community. We had a conversation about church that convinced me of the importance of a ministry to families like ours and others who have children by birth who have special needs.

So today I'd love to have lots of comments talking to me about church. Not necessarily denominations, or doctrine, or even religion, but the concept of attending a church. If you want to write a blog entry about it (or have ever written one) and would like to share the link that would be awesome too.

So, if you don't go to church:

Why don't you go? Have you ever gone? Would you go again?

If you are thinking about going to church:

What would you look for in a church? How would you know you had found what you were looking for?

If you are heavily involved in church, what do you love about your church? What do you feel it does best? Why is this important to you?

Would love your feedback!


Mary said...

Oh, I love this question!

This is an area that has always troubled me. Too often there's a lot of talk but no action on the part of faith communities.

For several years, going to church was a struggle. Fellow parishioners had no clue about the issues our children (foster, adopted, and birth) faced and simply viewed us as folks with poor parenting skills.

So being a loudmouth, I tried to educate folks. I wasn't given much encouragement from leaders within the church but kept trying. And I'm still trying.

We always sit in the way back of our church. We don't have a children's room, but our fellowship hall has windows into the main church so we sit back there. We get funny looks from time to time, but we just smile and move ahead.

We go because that relationship with God is important to us. I feel sad for the folks who judge us as they're sitting in God's house, because they are totally missing the point of why they are there. But unless they want to learn or are open to understanding, there's not much more I can do besides pray.

I have found, though, that the people who do understand are extremely loving and compassionate. They are the ones encouraging the appropriate behaviors and simply a-hugging on my kids. And because of them, we are blessed.

A friend has often asked me why we don't go to a different church. I just can't. I grew up in this church, this is the church that is extraordinarily important to my family, and I love my church. It's the ignorance I don't care for, and I hope to change that.

Anonymous said...

I love that my congregation LOVES my kids. That they are interested in them. That they learn all their names and remember them. Some people are prejudiced against foster and adoptive children and I love that in this congregation my children are accepted for who they are: my kids.

Learning to Parent said...

Our church is awesome. In the past month or so they have focused very heavily on foster care, encouraging Christians to stand up so that every foster child in this state has the opportunity to be placed in a Christian home. They made videos featuring foster and adoptive families in our church, and played them at the service for all to see (just short videos, not feature-length films or anything). They want to have 100 licensed foster families in our church. And not just that, they are encouraging everyone to support foster families and to be part of these kid's lives even if they can't be foster parents themselves. Nobody has ever looked at us funny because our children are AA and we are white, and I feel like all of us are accepted and loved.

Leigh said...

I was raised Southern Baptist, but haven't been to church in years. When I got to college (a Baptist college), I realized that everyone else knew so much that I didn't.

I'd never heard of contemporary christian music. I'd never met anyone who wanted to be a minister. I had no idea about so much - I'd gone to Sunday school all my life; why didn't I have a clue?

It was just too awkward, and I couldn't make myself go and feel like such an outsider.

Now, as an adult, I've tried to take my special needs adopted kids to church. I'm too ashamed to go back to the one church, after the things my daughter has done there.

I'm struggling to take my son to church - I know he wants to go - but starting over, when I'm so awkward and clueless, with a son I'm not sure I can trust - well, so far, I haven't managed it.

DynamicDuo said...

We have been fortunate that we attend my childhood parish. Our faith community knows us, and knows our situation. The adults are wonderful with our girls, very supportive. The girls peers however have not been. This has been the hard part.
Our girls are servers and continue to do so and they have earned the respect of the priests whom they have worked with.
I'm involved with the music for liturgy as well as a lector. Seeing me participate in Mass has helped the girls as well. Makes them want to part of the celebration as well.
As a side note: participating also occupies them and makes Mass go faster. Gives them something to focus on etc...

Lee said...

Wrote about our faith journey experiences on my blog cause I am waaaay too wordy to compress into comments! :-)

marythemom said...

I've always had an on again off again relationship with the church. I was told once that the relationship with have with our father, is often related to the relationship with have with our Father. I now know I have an attachment disorder, and it explains a lot to me about the difficulty I've had developing a trusting relationship with God.

When we adopted, we decided to go with a Christian adoption agency, so we started going to church (a requirement). I liked it, but my husband is not into organized religion because of the hypocrisy he's seen in the members of the church (flipping people off as they're exiting the parking lot) and my kids (bio and adopted) hated our choice in church. Plus, our son got himself kicked out of the youth group for aggressive/ intimidating behavior and burdening the other young teens with his issues. (He went to residential psychiatric treatment soon after this).

I've always preferred to attend Sunday School for the support, instead of church which I found boring and disconnected (I found I could tolerate the contemporary service, but Hubby hated the music). Hubby went wherever/whenever I drug him, when he wasn't teaching scuba.

As a former preschool director, a former social worker and mental health professional, and now the parent to 4 kids (2 bio with their own quirks and 2 special needs adopted teens) I felt I had a lot to contribute to conversations about parenting and yes, I did ask for prayers on occasion.

Hubby is VERY private so when he asked me to stop talking about our personal life, even just asking the class to pray for our family with no details added, I assumed that was why. Since I'm an outspoken person and the whole reason I wanted to go to church was for support... I eventually stopped going.

Now, 2 years later, Hubby casually mentioned that privacy wasn't why he'd wanted me to stop talking about our family. He said he saw class members rolling their eyes whenever I spoke. Since people did this all the time to my bipolar mom who couldn't stop talking when she was manic, this is one of my biggest fears.

No one at our church really "gets it," although I thought there were many who were sympathetic. Now I question that. The kids still go to church with the grandparents, but Hubby and I stay home.

Mom said...

Ah, a question I must answer. We changed churches after we adopted our daughter. The suburban church we had attended was 99.9% white and actually asked if they could use our daughter's picture in some of their materials. Really? To make it look like you have diversity? Um. No.
We now attend an inner-city church with a great deal of diversity and many kids more troubled than mine. The "ordinary" members still struggle to "get it" but there are plenty of other members who do understand. We are now very involved in our church and working on outreach to some of the more blighted areas in our city.