By this, I don’t mean ‘Is there some villain hiding in the closet, waiting to jump out at you?’ Rather, is your church a place where various types of people feel at home worshiping? Are there people there whom you are comfortable hanging around? I use the word ‘safe’ because there have any number of places that I have been to in my life, including churches, where I wasn’t very comfortable until I got out of the door. I didn’t fully realize this until I became a divorced person. Lots of churches pride themselves on being family friendly. While there is nothing overtly wrong with this, it is but a fine line between this and being not-so-very friendly toward those who don’t currently fit into a traditional family unit.
After worshipping at a church in Rochester (People of Hope) for a couple of years, I noticed how many folks were divorced or single. It had never had any sort of program to directly minister to those who had gone through these life experiences, but I gradually became convinced that it was a safe place to be if you had. It also had a fair number of people from the GLBT community. Yet, in a city as racially diverse as Rochester, there were only a few from black, hispanic or other racial backgrounds. In some churches there are gender or political issues. Others may have certain subtle socioeconomic lines. I recall one Lutheran church I attended many years ago that had a man who would say ‘Amen’ or ‘Alleluia’ at various points during the sermon. He was the only one to share this type of response … to say the least. I didn’t think it was a problem, but several of his fellow worshipers would grouse about it behind his back. If you give it a little thought, your church probably has some well established expressions of piety, liturgy, etc., and the congregation will tolerate only so much derivation.
I don’t know if it is such a great idea to initiate programs that will reach one group or another. I remember one church that had a strong singles program for a time, but most of the people who got involved never went on to become active in the church. Eventually, the program faded.
What if a church simply reached out to those who were hurting or in need of forgiveness, and left it at that?
Just a thought … DonC