The Challenges of Church Growth and Decline

Martin NolandWhen my wife Karla and I were first married, over twenty years ago, I invited her to join me for the banquet at our annual LCMS district pastor’s conference. The food was great, but the banquet speaker was not. His topic was on “church growth,” how the Missouri Synod is in decline, and how if we don’t do something about it—like being more ecumenical, having women elders and lectors, having women pastors, and introducing contemporary worship—we won’t have a church to pass on to our grand kids.

Karla has a lot of common sense and is a good judgment of character. Till that point she had never heard a “church growth” speech. Her evaluation of the banquet on our way home that evening was something like, “Do you pastors have to listen to that sort of speech all the time? I don’t think he really knows what he’s talking about.” I had to agree.

Everyone knows that the number of people who claim to be members of mainline churches in America is suffering a significant decline. Even more significant is the fact that the number of people who claim to be “Evangelical” is enjoying numerical growth. The Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Survey of 2007 found that these two general trends continue to hold true (see Religious Landscape Study, Chapter 1, pp. 17-18 here). The same survey reported that, among American Protestant denominations, the Missouri Synod is now among the top ten in membership and is ranked at #7 overall (see ibid., Chapter 1, p. 16).

More to the point of that banquet speech twenty years ago: How are we Lutherans doing in retaining our children in our churches when they become adults? The same survey reported that the best faiths in the category of retention rate are the Hindus (84%), Jews (76%), Eastern Orthodox (73%), Mormons (70%), and Catholics (68%) (see ibid., Chapter 2, p. 30 here:.). Lutherans are among the top three Protestant Religious groups, when it comes to child-to-adult retention rates, with Baptists at 60%, Adventists at 59%, and Lutherans at 59% (see ibid., Chapter 2, p. 31). I think our LCMS dedication to children’s ministry, with parochial schools, high schools, Sunday School, and catechism class, has a lot to do with that, though I would like to see how we compare to the ELCA on that score.

I think this should put at ease most fears that our grandchildren won’t have a Lutheran church to attend. After all, after twenty years, many of those grandchildren are already attending our churches. 

Still it is true that most congregations are faced with issues that are a result of decline in membership at their place. There are not as many volunteers to staff Sunday School, committees, guilds, and service groups as there used to be. Some congregations are eliminating an extra service on Sunday. Some congregations have had to close their school or form a multi-parish school. Some congregations have to “downsize” their staff. Some congregations have even closed permanently. All congregations are feeling the “pinch” due to the recession.

What should we do about this decline? Blame the preacher? That is the natural response, I think. I have been reading: Durwood Dunn, Cades Cove: The Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community 1818-1937 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988). Chapter 4 is titled “Religion and the Churches,” and it tells the stories of the three congregations that were in Cades Cove, now part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These were a Methodist, Missionary Baptist, and Primitive Baptist church. One of my distant relatives was a vacancy preacher at the latter church before the Civil War, which is how I became interested in these churches.

Dunn points out how the Primitive Baptist congregations had an independent-congregational polity. The tendency was to blame the preacher for any problem in the congregation; and the solution to that problem was always to fire the poor guy and find a new one. Since the preachers were illiterate, held other jobs, and were rarely paid, finding another illiterate guy who already had a paying job was not that difficult. Not surprisingly, with this sort of system, few preachers had a long tenure. Not surprisingly, the real root problems in the church and community were never addressed. Not surprisingly, Cades Cove and its churches remained a living stereotype of backwards illiterate “hillbillies” until the National Park service bought up the properties in 1937.

What should we do about decline, where it exists in our congregations? Blame the lay leaders? That doesn’t do any good either. Pastors and lay leaders need to face their problems together. Our pastors who have an M.Div. degree–even the guys straight out of the seminary–have lots of knowledge that is useful to a congregation, not just about theology and the Bible. All our pastors have practical classes not only in worship and preaching, but also in evangelism, counseling, religious education, missions, administration, organizational management, and religious pluralism. They have also been taught how to analyze community situations in order to determine the best ways to minister and deliver the Gospel.

Lay leaders have the advantage of knowing “the lay of the land” in a community. They have connections to community leaders and organizations. They know who is the best person or company to turn to for help or contracts. They know how communication actually works locally; and how the religious history of the community affects the work of their congregation. In addition to these critical matters of local wisdom, lay leaders also bring their talents and strengths to bear through volunteer service, work on boards, as officers, etc.

We don’t need to “be more ecumenical, have women elders and lectors, have women pastors, and introduce contemporary worship” in order to hold our own, or even grow. Compared to our fellow Protestants we are already holding our own, and in fact, passing up other mainline churches in total membership! Could we be doing better? Of course.

I think the biggest improvements that we could make at the present time is for: 1) pastors and lay leaders to stop blaming each other for problems in their congregation, and start working together on them; 2) congregations stop being so independent, or even hostile, to their fellow LCMS Lutherans, and start working together for their common good. An outward-focused congregation that works together to serve its own members, as well as non-members in the community, will always survive the hard-times and grow in the good times, because that is the sort of congregation that most people want to join.


Comments

The Challenges of Church Growth and Decline — 139 Comments

  1. “People are gathered to God through the Word and Sacraments in ghettos, concentration camps, and the LC-MS church I attended a few years ago that was basically a double-wide trailer, and there are folks going to hell in beautiful cathedrals. You need to get your mind around “when and where God wills” and resist the urge to “help.” By grace through faith period.” Beautiful words and illustrations to prove your point. Matthew Mills, I second Jais #49 above. Thank you for that consistency. All of us could take lessons.

  2. Pastor Tinglund,

    Is it “helping” (or synergism) to use such activities described in Comment 34, pg 2, as opportunities for sharing that Word through which the Holy Spirit creates faith?

    How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14)

    So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

    I’ve always appreciated your clear and direct comments.

  3. I’ve attempted to make my position clear, but apparently failed. It’s hard to escape the impression of being shouted at, or at least lectured/preached at. So, rather than escalate the rhetoric, and cause more hard feelings, I’ll leave this thread with a few final thoughts:

    Of course there are barriers to hearing God’s Word, barriers which we humans often erect, albeit unwittingly. It is simply good stewardship, good witness, and just plain good practice to do what we can to mitigate such barriers.

    Of course the Holy Spirit can overcome such barriers, “when and where He pleases,” but should we not attempt to remove them?

    I understand AC IV and V, and I also understand AC VI and XX. I’m very familiar with FC on Good Works and The Third Use of the Law.

    I have my head around “when and where He pleases,” and did before entering this discussion. I understand our teaching of the Doctrine of Election, insofar as it is possible to fathom.

    I’m sorry for any hard feelings or misunderstandings I may have caused. Thanks to Dr. Noland for this thought-provoking topic, and to others who have understood my position.

  4. John Rixe :
    Pastor Tinglund,
    Is it “helping” (or synergism) to use such activities described in Comment 34, pg 2, as opportunities for sharing that Word through which the Holy Spirit creates faith?

    It is not necessarily “helping” or synergism (in the sense of “helping God out in His work of salvation”, I pressume) to feed the hungry. It is something we do because we care about their hunger – or rather, perhaps, because we know that we should care about the hunger of the hungry, because God has commanded us to care. It is doing part of our duty as human beings.

    Nor is it necessarily “helping” or synergism to help provide good growth and learning conditions for children. It is something we (should) do because we (should) care for their future in this world. That also is part of our duty as human beings.

    And when a church or Christian entity does these or similar things, it is only natural that it be communicated to those encountered what God has done, and that they be invited to come to Church. To make that happen whenever and whereever possible is part of our duty as His Church and as His Christians. And as faithful Christians we should trust that through His Word of what His love has done, God Himself will work what is His good will – which means that He will work faith “when and where He wills”.

    It would be synergism, however, would we do these things merely pretending to care, whereas our real agenda would be an attempt to deceive the poor and needy into embracing the faith by impressing them with how good and kind we pretend to be, and how much we pretend to care.

    In this regard, what is synergism or self-righteousness on the one hand and faithful stewardship on the other will often in the final analysis come down to our attitude and priorities, rather than exactly what we do. Although, very often, I suppose, our attitudes and priorities will shine through in the way we do things …

    And ultimately, God Himself will in His mercy bring His good will to completion for us and in us and through us and in spite of us.

    And in the blood of Christ is forgiveness for our evil doings, and our bad attitudes, and therefore there is also forgiveness for our good works. Now, how amazing is that?

  5. It would be synergism, however, would we do these things merely pretending to care, whereas our real agenda would be an attempt to deceive the poor and needy into embracing the faith by impressing them with how good and kind we pretend to be, and how much we pretend to care.

    Excellent. Thanks so much.

  6. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I hope you realize that almost all of you agree in the essentials, and I think you all agree about “what” we should be doing as Christians. The differences seem to me regarding the questions of the “how” and the “why.”

    For Lutherans, the “how” questions are answered to some degree by the New Testament Scriptures, and also to a further degree by the Lutheran Confessions.

    So we don’t, for example, substitute milk for wine in the Sacrament. But there are many areas where we have some flexibility. For example, we can drink the wine via chalices or individual cups. There is no “Thus saith the Lord” on that decision. So the “how” questions have certain parameters, but within those parameters there is also freedom. The area of “freedom” is known as adiaphora, a Latin term (plural form) for the German machts nichts. 🙂

    For the Lutherans, the “why” questions also have some answers in Scriptures, but maybe not as much as we would like. God did not always explain to his people in the Old Testament “why.” He just said do it, and the cooperative ones did—the rebellious did not.

    So, too, in the New Testament we have many commands for what the church and its ministers must do. Jesus or the Holy Spirit does not always explain “why.” Here are just some examples (this is not an exhaustive list):

    1) read the Word publicly (1 Timothy 4:13)
    2) preach and teach the Word (Mark 16:15; 1 Timothy 4:13)
    3) administer Baptism (Matthew 28:19-20)
    4) administer the Keys (Matthew 18:18)
    5) administer the Supper (I Cor 11:23-24)
    6) sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16)
    7) pray, praise, and give thanks to God (Philippians 4:6; James 5:13)
    8) pray for each other (James 5:16)
    9) pray for everyone, especially rulers and government and persecutors (1 Timothy 2:1-2; Matthew 5:44)
    10) obey the commandments (Matthew 5:17-20)
    11) the lives of preachers must be “above reproach” (I Timothy 3:2 and following)
    12) the preachers/pastors must be supported financially by the church (I Corinthians 9:6-14; 1 Timothy 5:7; Matthew 10:10)
    13) seek reconciliation with your brothers (Matthew 18:15-17)
    14) do not cause offense to your brother in matters of adiaphora (Romans 14:15, 1 Corinthians 8:9)
    15) care for the brothers who are sick, poor, hungry, thirsty, estranged, poorly clothed, or imprisoned (Galatians 2:9-10; Matthew 25:31-46)
    16) care for widows and orphans in the brotherhood (James 1:27)
    17) take up collections to aid the distressed in sister congregations (I Corinthians 16:1)

    If you claim to be a Bible-believing Christian (or in Lutheran language, that “Scriptures are the only true norm in the Church”, FC SD rule and norm 3; Tappert, p. 504), then you can’t argue against any of these 17 points. or other commands in the New Testament. You are obliged to do them, or call a pastor to do them if they are uniquely pastoral functions.

    Where is evangelism or outreach in all of this? Good question. Churches today do all sorts of activities which they claim are “outreach,” but may not really be so on closer analysis. Public relations, or community-friendly activities, don’t count as “outreach” if they don’t invite people to come to church and hear the teaching of Jesus. The invitation is the key here.

    There is no doubt that God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4) and that this comes to the non-Christian in the form of an invitation (Matthew 22:1-14). Such “outreach’ is a “genus” of activities, that includes at least three “species”:

    FIRST SPECIES: There is no doubt that the sending of an “apt to teach” pastor to another region, or a foreign country, is commanded by Scripture–in many places (Matthew 28:19, et.al.). So that is one form of outreach which is properly called “missions.”

    SECOND SPECIES: There is also no doubt that we have the examples in Scriptures of persons who invited their relatives or friends to meet Jesus and hear his teaching (Andrew invited Peter; Philip invited Nathanael; the Samaritan woman at the well invited her whole town).

    This is what I call “person-to-person evangelism, and it can be done anytime, anywhere, by any Christian. No Christian can say “This is not my cup of tea.” There may be places and times where you can’t do it, but there is always some place, some time, and someone that you can invite to meet “Jesus” at church and hear his teaching.

    Richard G. Korthals once published a book called Agape Evangelism (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1980) that was all about this invitational “person-to-person” evangelism. This was an excellent book, and I wish it was still in print. I know him as “Dean Korthals,” since was Dean of Students when I was at CU-Chicago in the late 1970s.

    Dean Korthals was also connected with Camp Arcadia in Michigan, and was for a time a member of Balance, Inc. Balance, Inc. was the original LCMS “organized conservatives” group that published “Affirm” and sought to get conservatives elected at national conventions. I bring up that point to demonstrate that LCMS confessionals/conservatives have been eager to promote evangelism, although we may differ from others “how” to do it.

    THIRD SPECIES: Finally, there is the species of “congregational outreach,” which involves any number of ways of inviting non-Christians into your congregation. Calling on visitors or canvassing neighborhoods is not easy volunteer work and is not for everyone. Even though not every Christian may have the talents for this sort of volunteer work, no congregation can say “That is not our cup of tea.” The Spirit distributes gifts, natural talents, and persons to each congregation as he wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), so that there is almost always some folks who are capable of taking on this type of work.

    Blessings to all of you as we approach the celebration of the Holy Trinity this Sunday!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  7. @Martin R. Noland #7
    What Biblical references are there for your “Third Species” please? Not that I disagree, I just wondered about that because I did not feel the one given was very applicable to that particular idea. I appreciate your input and teaching. Thank you.

  8. Dear LadyM,

    To answer your question in #9 above, in his book on the “Proper Form of a Christian Congregation” that I quoted farther above, Walther states “A congregation should do its share that the Gospel may be brought to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, [namely] to the wretched heathen and the Jews” (p. 185). He then cites Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 2:9, and 2 Corinthians 11:8 (the latter especially refers to the support of foreign missionaries). Then he quotes the Lutheran theologians Veit von Seckendorf and Conrad Dannhaure on the topic. I think these Bible passages apply directly to congregations, and Walther thinks it does too.

    I believe that the “salt” and “light” sayings of Jesus also pertain to the position of congregations and laymen vis a vis the world of unbelievers (see Matthew 5:13-16). These passages are often misunderstood, since Jesus is not specific “how” it happens that we are “salt” and “light.” What are the “good works” in verse 16? That has to be determined by comparison with more specific passages in Scripture. The main point of Matthew 5:13-16 is that it isn’t just the preachers/pastors who are to be “salt” and “light,” because Jesus is addressing all Christians.

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    If you have further interest in this topic, a great monograph on missions and evangelism from a truly Lutheran perspective is the proceedings from the 2005 Congress on the Lutheran Confessions. You can purchase it here: http://www.shop.logia.org/Mission-Accomplished-205.htm

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  9. @Martin R. Noland #10 Thank you for the references. I never for one moment thought it was the pastors/preachers who alone are to be salt and light. I just wanted more and you gave it to me. Much appreciated.

  10. @Martin R. Noland #10
    Is it fair to summarize the two positions as the Confessions might? Good works (loving your neighbor, providing a clean, hospitable, place to worship) are necessary but not necessary for ones salvation (only the Word creates faith which saves).

  11. Dear Pastor McCall,

    I would not say that providing yourself a pew and roof over your own head to hear the Word of God is “loving your neighbor” as yourself. You are the beneficiary of your own work there; there is self-interest involved. “Loving your neighbor” is by definition doing something for someone else.

    Now if you give to missions and help provide a “clean, hospitable place to worship” for the people of Kenya or Ghana, then that is certainly “loving your neighbor.” There is no trace of self-interest there.

    Your statement from the confessions that “Good works are necessary [otherwise the Law has no effect], but not necessary for salvation [otherwise the Gospel has no effect]” is true. For the BJS blog readers, that is discussed in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article IV on “Good Works.”

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  12. @Martin R. Noland #14
    I would not say that providing yourself a pew and roof over your own head to hear the Word of God is “loving your neighbor” as yourself. You are the beneficiary of your own work there…

    If you are one person and have provided a pew for eight, it would seem to me that you have done a little something for your “neighbor”. 😉

  13. @helen #15
    … and prticularly so considering the literal meaning of the word “neighbour” – the one who lives near you – and who is thus entrusted to your care by God.

    We are talking vocation here …

  14. @Martin R. Noland #14
    “I would not say that providing yourself a pew and roof over your own head to hear the Word of God is “loving your neighbor” as yourself. You are the beneficiary of your own work there; there is self-interest involved. “Loving your neighbor” is by definition doing something for someone else. “Now if you give to missions and help provide a “clean, hospitable place to worship” for the people of Kenya or Ghana, then that is certainly “loving your neighbor.” There is no trace of self-interest there.”

    So the test of whether or not you are “loving your neighbor” is the presence or absence of a “trace of self-interest?” So when I go to the expense (and it is a substantial expense) of driving to the next town to attend a true church it is not loving my neighbors (wife and children who ride with me) since there’s something in it for me, namely, gifts of life and salvation? What about my monetary offerings? I would live fairly well on my wage if I did not give XX%. Perhaps since we in my family are under a constant and severe money crunch, my giving a substantial percentage is “loving my neighbor” since it would be more in my self-interest to reduce the XX%. Or maybe it doesn’t count since it’s not going to Bishop Obare in Africa.

    I mean…c’mon, man, I can’t even buy beer let alone a cigar once in a while. Giving that up *must* be loving my neighbor.

  15. All mainline denominations are effected by the decline of the middle class birth rate

    However one segment of our population is growing very rapidly and has a high birth rate.

    I speak of the Hispanics of course. Those church bodies which are successfully reaching these folks are growing in spite of the declining white birthrate.

    The Assemblies of God are now 40% minority and this has been accomplished by starting thousands (yes it is true) of Hispanic churches and others. The Southern Baptists have also started thousands of Hispanic churches. However this has not yet offset their decline in the white majority population

    What made me think of this is the immigration crisis on our borders. I guess things have gotten so bad in Central America that thousands of children with no adults are showing up at our borders. This would be a good opportunity for Lutheran and other Christian works of mercy.

  16. @R.D. #17
    I mean…c’mon, man, I can’t even buy beer let alone a cigar once in a while. Giving that up *must* be loving my neighbor.

    Definitely! Unless it’s a very good cigar! 🙂

  17. @jeff #18
    What made me think of this is the immigration crisis on our borders. I guess things have gotten so bad in Central America that thousands of children with no adults are showing up at our borders.

    No, they’ve figured out that we will deport (at least a few) adult illegals. In any case they will stay illegal.

    Whereas, with “children” [liberally interpreted] Uncle Sucker will take them in, feed, clothe and give them an education… even to the college degree his own citizens sink themselves in debt for. [Also free cell phones and texting, Medicaid, etc.] And then, in the interests of “Die vers i tee”, they will get first preference for any available job, as “minorities”, even when they become numerically ‘majority’.

    Because by that time they (and the “do-gooders”) will totally control the vote.

    And they will be given citizenship way ahead of people who wait years to get here legally!
    And then… and then they can import all their adult friends and relations!!!

    For this our grandparents came over in steerage (legally) and worked all their lives to “make things better for their children and grandchildren!” Or maybe for you it was Perry County… No freebies there either!

  18. @R.D. #17

    Your kindness and generosity toward your family and congregation are fine examples of “loving your neighbor,”  I don’t think anyone around here would deny that.

  19. @R.D. #17
    R.D. I would love to exercise my “missional” wings and love my neighbor by sending you a cigar care-pack! Shoot your address to my email and tell me what kind of cigars you like. I might have a few extras in the Holy Smoke humidor to pass along to you.

    -Robert.

  20. @Jais Tinglund #16

    We are talking vocation here …

    I believe you are right, considering the number of churches I have “put pews into”, some seldom/never occupied by me. 🙂

    I was just told today about the next one; a friend’s mission congregation has purchased land and hopes to build by fall.

  21. @Robert Hoffman #22
    That is very gracious of you, Mr. Hoffman. Please save me one should we meet in person someday. The only thing better than a fine cigar on a cool summer evening is talking theology with Lutherans while smoking a fine cigar on a cool summer evening!

  22. Maybe I’m missing something, but I think it’s kind of funny. The speaker at that conference Pastor Noland attended said that the LCMS would stop shrinking if it adopted contemporary worship. Now the LCMS has all kinds of contemporary worship in many of its churches. IT might be that at least 1/2 of LCMS members attend a church with contemporary worship. Yet, the LCMS continues to shrink. I guess the guy was wrong?

  23. Yes, Pastor Zell, and they also said we’d stop shrinking if we weren’t so rigid in “our” doctrine. I can’t imagine anyone taking issue with the claim that the ELCA is less rigid, yet they are shrinking at a much faster rate than the LCMS…

  24. @John Rixe #27
    Is there any data available regarding attendance trends at LCMS liturgical services compared to contemporary services

    You’ll get that the day after stats on the number of CRM’s each district has permitted.

    [Sometimes, I was surprised to discover, the people who pushed for “praise” services leave what they created. “Why?” was not answered.]

  25. I don’t know.  The LLL article referenced in comment 27, pg 3, seems to indicate growth among more than a few churches with contemporary services.  

  26. @John Rixe #27
    Why would this possibly matter John, and what could we in good conscience do w/ this data? That’s really been my point throughout this thread. Why ask irrelevant questions? I remember my college pastor’s answer to nearly any loaded theological or moral question was always “why do you want to know?” That’s the best answer to your question above.

  27. …I want to know because it’s the subject of the thread and Pr Zell offered a good theory that contemporary worship may be one reason for shrinkage.

    “I think the biggest improvements that we could make at the present time is for: 1) pastors and lay leaders to stop blaming each other for problems in their congregation, and start working together on them; 2) congregations stop being so independent, or even hostile, to their fellow LCMS Lutherans, and start working together for their common good. An outward-focused congregation that works together to serve its own members, as well as non-members in the community, will always survive the hard-times and grow in the good times, because that is the sort of congregation that most people want to join.” – Pr Noland

  28. @Matthew Mills #31
    Matt you’re spot on. (Was the professor Dr. Kolb by chance? He says that all the time as well) Growth and numbers is a red herring. The only Scriptural basis for measuring a church is faithfulness to Christ and His teaching. Growth can happen for all sorts of reasons and many of them may have little or nothing to do with faithfulness to God’s Word. To be honest, as much as I respect Pr. Noland his assesment that John quotes is wrong. An absolute that says, “…will always survive the hard-times and grow in the good times,…” is simply untrue, unless one knows the mind and will of God. It once again places growth and success into a formula, i.e. Stop blaming each other + serve one another and the community = growth. Contemporary Worship hurts the church REGARDLESS of growth or decline in numbers because of its lack of faithfulness to God’s Word. Period.

  29. @Rev. McCall #33
    In my case it was the rt. rev. John T. Pless, but there’s no verbal copyright so … .

    @John Rixe #32
    Lutherans just don’t use CoWo, period. We retained the historical ordinaries and propers of the Western Church, and we didn’t do that because the historical ordinaries and propers of the Western Church was an effective outreach tool in 16th century Europe, but because the reformers (for the sake of love) naively believed that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages (AC 24, Apol 15.) The use of CoWo fails the love test and the theology test, and I fear your question boils down to “which type of worship resonates best w/ the old Adam in 21st Century North America?” It’s the wrong question for too many reasons to count.

  30. Now the LCMS has all kinds of contemporary worship in many of its churches. It might be that at least 1/2 of LCMS members attend a church with contemporary worship. Comment 25

    Lutherans just don’t use CoWo, period. Comment 34

    mmmmmm….what? 🙂

  31. @John Rixe #35
    Does the presence in our nation of lawfully married same sex couples change the fact that there is properly no such thing as “same sex marriage?” We live in a sinful and broken world John. Still, I am on Confessionally solid ground when I assert that no CoWo services are properly “Lutheran.” It’s not how we roll.

    “Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”

  32. I am taking a tremendous risk in saying this, but so what if we don’t have people to “man” the Sunday schools, ladies’ aides, and some of those other auxiliary wings of “church life?”

    Some studies suggest that Sunday schools actually do harm to children’s church attendance in that they make “going to church” purely entertainment and children grow up expecting that same fun in all aspects of church life. Whenever they get into the “grown-up world” of liturgical worship and in-depth Bible studies, they are bored. I want to say here and now that I do not believe the Divine service is for adults only. I am simply making a point. My understanding of the history of Sunday school is that it was started in Europe by Methodists (I believe) for those unfortunate children who were working in sweatshops and who had no opportunity for education. So Sunday mornings they were instructed in the basics. Of course they used the Bible for reading. Most people who could read did. But they also were taught math, history, and other subjects to better their circumstances. Hence, Sunday SCHOOL. It has evolved into what it is today in this country. Martin Luther, it seems to me, expected parents, especially fathers, to teach their own children the articles of faith.

    Most ladies’ aides that I have been a part of throughout the last thirty+ years have not had a Pastor leading the study. Frankly, too, most of the woman-led studies are Law-based how-to-be-a-better…fill in the blank. I personally would prefer a social gathering of women to that. I heard so many, “well I think…” during those times I have holes in my tongue from biting it so many times.

    Now I realize that some jobs around the church need to be done. I am not saying to foist those things upon the pastor. Our congregation has many men who share their talents by maintaining our facilities or hiring experts who can. We also have male officers of the church who see that things are done in good order and elders who support the pastor in his call. As a congregation we support a sem student and several missions.

    I am simply saying that perhaps we need to rethink what busy-ness we are burdening our laypeople with and simply faithfully teach and preach so that we laypeople can faithfully share the Gospel through our vocations. We come to be fed so that we can return home full and eager to share the Joy of our salvation.

  33. @LadyM #37

    AMEN, Lady M!

    Most ladies’ aides that I have been a part of throughout the last thirty+ years have not had a Pastor leading the study. Frankly, too, most of the woman-led studies are Law-based how-to-be-a-better…fill in the blank. I personally would prefer a social gathering of women to that. I heard so many, “well I think…” during those times I have holes in my tongue from biting it so many times.

    Where did women learn about the “evangelical” preachers and writers? At LWML (after National Youth Gathering) both Trojan horses in the LCMS.

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