This is a follow up to one of my previous posts “To Church or Not to Church” where I lamented the absence of fellow 20 somethings at churches. I think I may have shed some light on my own question: Church can be exhausting.
I’m not talking about long services (and God knows I have sat through some marathons) but what the church expects of its members. I spent two years at a very small non-denominational church and enjoyed it for the most part. I did get involved. I brought a dish to the potluck, food for the poor, volunteered in the nursery, went to the Bible study, and led a short-lived dance worship group. But it seemed like that was never enough. There weren’t enough people to cover the nursery so I was always getting called in at the last minute and people weren’t showing up for the dance thing. And they always wanted me to be doing something more. I left that particular church for reasons unrelated to that but it’s something that seems to be happening everywhere.
I went to another non-denominational church that wasn’t a whole lot bigger. I only went a couple times but while I was there, I was encouraged to take the New Member Class so I could get my Member Certificate. What, are we in first grade? But that’s another discussion. Then the pastor went on and on about how we’re supposed to serve and it’s not okay to just attend. You have to be a member and you have to be involved in some way and you have to do, do, do. The reason I left this one was because there were no young people there. I tried one that was bigger but not a mega church. There were a few young people there but again I got the Do Speech. I started to ask myself, “Am I not a good Christian if I’m not involved in something?” I got so wrapped up in trying to get involved and meet people and be what I was “supposed” to be and do what I was “supposed” to do that I ended up feeling completely disconnected from the church. Instead of being preached to, I felt preached at. It felt like I was being told I wasn’t good enough. As if I don’t get enough of that from other aspects of my life.
After a couple months of striving to be the model Christian I realized that this was people stuff, not God stuff. Yes, the Bible says that Christians should congregate and volunteer their resources to help those less fortunate but people can take that too far. They try to do too much and expect everyone else to do that too. I want to be involved and help but I also don’t want to be looked down on if I just need to attend services and be fed for a while. This and the other stresses in my life were becoming overwhelming so I made the decision to take a break from church for a while. And maybe that’s what other young Christians are doing. It’s not because we’re lazy or we don’t want to help, we’re just tired of being told we’re not good enough. Many 20 somethings are unmarried, childless, and don’t have a good enough job, leading some to think of themselves as failures already. I did for years. We don’t need the church encouraging those kinds of feelings.
The Church is made up of people and therefore imperfect but I hope that pastors can understand that pounding on and guilting people into serving is not the way to go about it. I’m taking a break from church not because I’m turning away from God but because there are times when you just need to rest your mind and tune out all those voices telling you to be better, do more. This is just my season of rest. Church will probably come with another stage of my life.