The Seven-Day-A-Week Church, or Still Trying to Answer the Question

I am so thankful that ChaliceChick is taking the time out of her day to write comments on my posts; they are making me articulate what I feel about Adult Religious Education  in a way that other people can understand.

If one looks at the churches that are really growing, most of them are seven-day-a-week churches (or something close to). What do I mean by seven-day-a-week? I mean that there is something going on at the church every day.  And most of what is going on is not children’s activities.

The question that ChaliceChick posed to me though was, “But isn’t it a sign of religious maturity not to necessarily NEED a structured class, but to learn this stuff because you’re interested?”  Maybe.  However I do think that structured classes for ADULTS are necessary for churches to grow.  Even more importantly, I think that the best way to be exposed to different SPIRITUAL PRACTICES (lectio divinia, body prayer, different types of journaling, examen, etc.) is through a structured class. What one does after that is up to the person.

I read the book The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor a couple of weeks ago for class.  In the section where she talks about scripture Taylor says that people continued to say that they wanted to know more about the Bible so she would offer classes about scripture but they were lightly attended.  But when she started having classes about applied theology or on spiritual practices, there would be plenty of people in those classes.  This is why I so big on structured classes.  Plenty of people are yearning for a time set aside for learning and exploring these things yet many UU churches are not offering them anything other than the 10:30 am worship service on Sunday morning.

Something about this must change. It cannot be all about the children (what about those people who don’t want to work with the children’s program? shouldn’t there be something for them too?).  Churches that are growing have strong children’s programs AND strong educational and other small group programs for adults. And as long as UU churches keep treating children as the be-all-and-end-all in the church, there will continue to be a revolving door when it comes to the adults.

I know that I’m still not answering the question well.  I’ll try again later.

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8 thoughts on “The Seven-Day-A-Week Church, or Still Trying to Answer the Question

  1. Wow. That’s weird. I’ve never attended a UU church that didn’t have adult RE. In the smaller, poorer churches it was usually a couple of discussion groups and a class or two, but it was always there.

    I think most people who teach RE classes get a kick out of putting their own curriculum together. I know that’s how I feel about YRUU. We don’t follow any one UUA produced curriculum, though we do stuff from “Building your own theology,” have discussions of social and personal issues, play games and sometimes just talk. I’ve been working on my own mini-curriculum that is designed to be taught once a month as part of a mix of other stuff. It’s going to be called “Christianity in the Culture” and focus on teaching the less famous bible stories that one still sees lots of cultural references to.

    Anyway, I apologize for the snarky tone of my previous responses. I was applying what you were saying on the congregational level to individuals and it sounds like you didn’t intend people to do that.

    CC

  2. hey CC,
    I didn’t see your comments as snarky at all. I really do appreciate them.
    Anyway…..I’ve gotten to travel to numerous UU churches across the country and too many of them seem to confuse Forum with Adult RE. This is part of the reason that I talk so much about ARE.
    As far as structured classes are concerned, I’m pushing for more published curricula from the UUA not because I think that a church has to follow it step by step (no church I know of does that with curricula), but because I think there needs to be a resource for those smaller congregations where there aren’t as many people working on the Adult RE program as on the children’s program.

    Hope that makes more sense.

  3. Kim:
    I really liked what you are saying about a 7 day a week church. I’m going to try to take the same idea but from a different tack. Warning: fuzzy sociology ahead. Disclaimer: I really enjoy scientific advancement.

    Okay:
    Even though our world is more connected, our connections are via tech and therefore, less personal. I believe the result is that many people, parents in particular, are seeking greater ways to personally connect with others. Also, in this world of many moralities, parents seek the church to provide a stable single morality. These two theories result in what I tend to call religious consumerism. That is people are approaching their choid of religion with the same decision process that they do for their life insurance, or car: they want a customer friendly brand.

    The successfull churches I would argue percieve this on some level and understand the implication: They make it possible that the church can be the center of a person’s social life. This model is similar to the traditional (i.e. pre-1960’s) synagog where even many civil legal disputes were resolved in temple. NPR, infact used to air a wonderful collection of tapes from these hearings circa 1940 I believe.

    When a church offers itself to be the center of a person’s social life it solves many issues. The parents have at least some knowledge of the values of the parents their kids are playing with. The children grow up in an enclave that reinforces the values of the family.

    Also, singles in the church meet other singles through inter church activities that have their values and are interested in the same things. In many cases they share the same pollitics or at least approach to pollitics.

    All these benifits and more (such as church dispute resolution), not only strengthen congregational bonds, but provides fantastic selling points to outsiders.

    The problem is that these models seem to work best in churches that have staff who see themselves as serving the congregation. That means more work for staff because expecting 2 income families to consistantly organize church events on top of their other committments is unrealistic. Also, ministers must be good administrators. They cannot allow staff to function as a collection of fiefdoms that work together once a week.

    We can be a 7 day a week church, but it will require a change to our thinking.

  4. The idea that a successful church should be the center of its members’ social lives comes from more than just empirical observation, Chuck. It may be largely forgotten these days, but it’s an orientation that is deeply embedded in our denominational history.

    Here’s John Winthrop, preaching on board the Arbella to the passengers who would soon disembark to found the First Churches (now UU) in Salem, Boston and elsewhere:

    “For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

  5. My partner and I have been attending a UU church for about a year. At our church there are lots of social activities and opportunities for social action , but not many spiritual growth activities especially for adults. RE for adults consists of forums, vespers once a month, and a class led by our minister in the fall/spring. Our minister is very hands off- she has been there a long time and I think is more interested in her social change stuff outside of church. Last year we had an intern minister who led some very meaningful/thought provoking RE.
    We also participate in a Small group ministry. We meet once a month and it tends to be more a group therapy session than anything else.

    I love the people at church but wish sometimes there were more opportunities for meaningful/thought provoking RE for adults.

  6. I’ve been talking about doing a series of classes on spiritual practice–specifically UU spiritual practice. I’ll be doing that now in our congregation in April as part of my praxis. I keep getting positive “oh, that sounds interesting” reactions when I’ve mentioned it, so I’m making the wild presumption that there’s interest.

    There’s certainly need.

    I know that there have been people who found a home at this congregation… and stayed… and then, somewhat sadly, wandered away. It was home, but they weren’t “being fed” enough. And no, Sunday “dinner” isn’t enough.

    We’ll see how that pans out…

  7. I had a young friend ask me today, when did church start being once a week? He meant globally, when did this ritual of gathering once every week become common. He noted that he feels that church and sabbath are two completely different concepts – especially in his experience, so he didnt connect the biblical call to sabbath as a beginning point. I thought it was a good question, and guessed it was probobly around the time of constantine when all kinds of other things started becoming structured and institutionalised. What does everyone else think? any ideas?

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