I typed this week’s column in an overstuffed chair in our adult Sunday school room. Upbeat feelings inspired me as the sounds of Bible school flowed through our old church. The building’s potential is seldom utilized due to lack of people.
Classrooms that once were filled with every age group when I was a kid are now empty. We had enough classes to spill over into an historic brick house next to our church. As Sunday school attendance dwindled, we were fortunate when the Lisbon Montessori School was established. The brick house was remodeled for the school, and they have rented from us ever since. Our liaison seems to have been mutually beneficial over the years, but, of the preschool kids who abound on weekdays, few carried over to our number on Sunday mornings.
My daughters were among those few. Getting them to attend church with their dad and me has been harder as they get older. That seems to be what ails most churches today. Sunday lifestyles are not what they once were in America — perhaps throughout the world. Our small congregation (averaging about 50 on a good Sunday) numbers a few who make an attempt to “dance with a dinosaur” as William Easum’s book describes the church experience of today’s world.
Easum offers a parable to explain his view of the problem with today’s churches. He compares the church to an old wineskin into which fresh wine cannot be placed. He declares that “many … congregations are becoming irrelevant to a hurting, unchurched world and are unable to offer new wine to the new generation.”
I’m not one who believes that simply being in a particular church building is going to make all the difference in my life. I can find inspiration in my surroundings, but any real passion in my soul has to spring from inside me? — not outside. Concerning church attendance, my feelings are mixed. I’m nurtured by families and familiarity; I’m compromised by time ill spent on church politics.
It’s difficult to balance spiritual activity with administering a church staff and building. We waste precious hours quibbling over petty differences that should not even be problems. I wonder how any newcomer to our situation could want to be involved with us. We are the old, stale wine.
Then, two young moms joined us for worship, bringing their kids, activating a children’s class and breathing young life into our midst. They decided to organize a Bible school for summer and here I sit. Not a central figure in the planning like I was when my girls went to Bible school, I sat working on other projects and just listened.
Hearing activity in many corners of our church is a wonderful sound. Being open to change, youth, and, hopefully growth, is essential. All I had to do was paint empty water bottles yellow, turn them into ears of corn and fill them with dried beans for the kids to shake while they sing their songs. Now, that is what is called making a joyful noise!