When I’m working with parishes around our diocese, we tend to talk a lot about the unchurched. And, for good reason. Statistically, two-thirds of the residents of Indiana are without a church home. Yet, as we talk about the unchurched, there is another sub-group category of folks I’ve been thinking a lot about recently—the de-churched.
Who are the de-churched? The term refers to those who have been in other churches but were broken for some reason by that experience. Hmm… I sure know a lot of people like that. How about you?
The Rev. Graham Baird, a Presbyterian new congregation development pastor who is in the midst of growing a thriving congregation in a small community in Central California, has a lot to say about the de-churched. And, the exciting thing for me is that it seems he’s really on to something. He’s committed to the polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and values that but isn’t afraid to do what amounts to first meeting people where they are.
Connecting is huge, he said. If people in your town are wearing cowboy boots, then you’ve got to wear them. If they are wearing flip-flops, wear them. It isn’t about the shoes, but about connecting with the people the way they live.
We (the church) have this notion that we have to come in and change the society we are in, but we also have to be open to the various needs to be transformed by society and yet maintain our convictions.
Can we still be a liturgical church and yet halt decline? The answer, it appears, is a real balancing act. And, the key seems to be in finding a way to be very present to the de-churched both in and out of worship most importantly, beginning by meeting them where they are. Liturgically speaking, Baird says some of the liturgy we have in the Church was comforting for how people lived their lives in the 1500’s but is not always appropriate for today. He points out that Jesus suspended orthodoxy regarding the Sabbath, eating and healing, and did it to connect with people. A steps of the Master example/message?
Anyway, Baird must being doing something right. In a congregation that has remained purely Presbyterian but with a creative twist, the church began from scratch on Easter in 2006 and is now building a church building (it is presently meeting in a movie theatre) with an average weekly attendance of 700-800.
I’m still thinking a lot about the de-churched. I dont have a lot of answers yet on what a focus on the de-churched might mean to us as parishes in this diocese and how we can be especially present to and even seek out those persons. But, I’d sure love to hear your thoughts. So, join in the conversation!