One of my very favorite Christian writers Rachel Held Evans recently posted about the struggles she’s having about church. How she’s been turned off by many things about church lately. And although she still likes the idea of people giving her casseroles when she has a baby (a tradition church people are famous for), she’s just not sure she can find peace at church right now.
As a youth director at a church, I’m often grilled on why anyone should bother showing up on Sunday morning, so the topic is something I’ve given a lot of thought to. Below is my response to her post (which I also left in her comments section).
I can completely understand your frustrations. I’m a paid part-time youth leader at my church and we are extremely contemporary, which helps with some of it.
However, being a paid staff member at a church gives you a totally different perspective, and many times that’s not a good thing. Unfortunately, many people feel they have the right to judge you harshly when you work at their church in way that’s totally different from how they would treat a regular new member or even a co-worker. My soul has endured many wounds in the role. Also, the politics of running a church can be ugly and I admit I’ve questioned my relationship with the church more during my time in this role than at any other point in my life.
That being said, I keep going back to two things. 1. It’s easy to be a Christian alone with your Bible locked in room somewhere. The hard part is living it out amidst all the messiness that is a world full of humans. 2. There’s no such thing as a perfect church, and even if you find one, it won’t be perfect the second you join.
Church is not God. But, I do think that being part of a community of believers is important to growing closer to God.
Through the church’s faults, we learn forgiveness. Through the messy behind-the-scenes clashes we learn how to create peace. And of course, through the fellowship and the mission work and the changes we see in the lives touched by the church, we get a little bit of a better understanding of love.
I have come to understand that only God can meet the perfect expectations I have in my head, and that in turn helps me extend grace to the church and those in it.
I’m sure there’s a church out there you would feel comfortable in and I pray you find it, not because I think of you as a “project” but because despite all the bad that comes with “church” there’s so much good stuff too.
Like working with a youth who decides to give up drugs and alcohol; or taking kids on a mission trip and seeing them try to live out their faith in a new way upon return; or finding a new friend who helps you understand scripture in a different way; or growing close to a spiritual adviser who you not only respect, but also love; or seeing a youth lead a week of Vacation Bible School and grow into a leader before your eyes; or listening to the praise band sing “I’ll go where you send me.”
And of course, the casseroles.
Love and prayers,