The Teachable Church

I wrote last September about the importance of being a teachable pastor.  Latelyjesus-light
I’ve been thinking about teachable congregations.

A growing church is a teachable church:

  • It’s curious about the world and the Creator of the world
  • It wants to grow in faith and service, and
  • It wants to connect with God and others, including people who might be considered The Other.

There is so much we all need to learn to be a 21st Century Church.  It does not help when:

  1. Leaders schedule workshops and classes on topics that interest almost nobody.   I recently saw a flyer about an upcoming leadership training event in a small congregation that will be offering workshops on Soteriology (Really?  Do people a) know what soteriology is? and b) consider salvation to be a primary daily issue?  Actually, I could make a case for salvation as a daily issue, but this didn’t sound like that kind of workshop), Re-writing Church Bylaws (you’re killing me), and Different Curricula for Pre-Schoolers (although the church has only two pre-schoolers.)  Honestly, I suspect that very few people will be attending this event although a lot of time will go into preparing for it.
  2. Leaders schedule workshops and classes at times that don’t work for most people.  Some people don’t go out on winter evenings.  Some can’t do Tuesday morning classes.  Some find Sunday mornings to be tricky.  When and where gatherings are offered depends on the culture of our community and the demographics of our people.
  3. Leaders don’t pay attention to what their people really want to learn.  Maybe they don’t want to learn how to re-write the church by-laws but they’d love to know what to do when a friend is diagnosed with cancer.  Maybe they don’t need a theological lecture on predestination, but they’d like to know how to pray out loud with somebody.

In my humble opinion, church people need to learn:

  • What a 21st Century Pastor does (and doesn’t do.)
  • How to pray with a friend or stranger (without cracking a Bible over their heads/scaring them.)
  • How to shift from obsessing with church stats (attendance numbers, etc.) to loving our neighbors
  • What does loving our neighbor look like (and what does is not look like?)

What’s really tricky is when we in the church believe we already know how to be the church.

We’ve been at it for so long that – of course – we know how to care for a new mom or welcome an unfamiliar guest or offer hospitality to an enemy.

But every day of my life, I hear people tell me how friendly their church is, only to worship with a congregation and have not a single person speak to me (especially when I’m in the pews rather than the pulpit.)  Every week, I watch parishioners ignore people who don’t look like they look.  Every day we hear of people (“the nones”) who have been turned off by Christians rather than loved/shown mercy by them.

These are some of the things that a teachable church needs to learn – those daily “how to live a Jesus-shaped life” practices.

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4 responses to “The Teachable Church

  1. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I need better tools for listening to what people in my congregation want to learn. Maybe parents of young kids aren’t exclusively interested in parenting as a topic? What are useful ways for uncovering peoples’ interests and questions?

  2. I have occasionally included a blank sheet in the bulletin, and asked people during the sermon to write down something they’d like to see us do as a church – have gotten some interesting replies.

  3. I echo Rocky’s last question. I’ve asked…no response. I’ve emailed…no response. I’ve put information in the newsletter…no response. I’ve posted on FB (for the very few who are there)…no response. I’ve given a wide…and I mean a wide variety of topics to consider…and their response is either “whatever you want to do” or “no response”.

  4. Rocky and Purple make a really good point. What do you do with a congregation that complains about the workshops/classes/studies/service opportunities that are offered, but doesn’t provide any input into the kinds of things they would like to see when asked? We’re in that situation, and when I chaired the faith formation committee, I’d get all kinds of complaints about what we were doing, but no suggestions for what people would rather do.

    Is it just complaining for the sake of complaining, or to cover a general sense of apathy?

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