Monday, March 2, 2009

New Members vs Lifers

As I shoveled my driveway (felt funny to type that in Thomasville, NC) free of the five inches of snow we received, my mind wandered to our worship service yesterday. We had a threat of bad weather and although the snow waited until the evening to come it still was a cold rainy Sunday morning. We had 30 less people than normal but I thought it was a great turn out compared to other bad weather days. While snow flew off the head of the shovel and landed gently into a pillow of more snow, it hit me that all our new families were at church that Sunday.

We had three families join at the end of last year. They all came excited about the church they were joining. They have been active in most events although not all, but have been faithful Sunday morning worshipers in these four months of membership. This is not true about some of our longer term members, the lifers. I'm not talking about the older generations but young families who have grown up in the church. They seem to have a completely different attitude and personality when it comes to church.

Now these are generalizations and stereotypes, there are those who don't fit the mold. Maybe new members vs lifers is not the right way to frame this either, but it is what comes to mind.

New Members: They have joined the church because they feel a need being met. This means they are excited about worship and getting involved in the community of faith. They are faithful to worship services because they have a passion and a desire to be fed. They bring an excitement with them that is at times can be contagious.

Lifers: Church is an obligation. Church is something they do when they do not have a better option or when they are tired of being nagged by their parents. They support the church out of loyalty and duty. Since they have been around a while worship is something that will be there next week, no need to make a huge effort. Their lack of enthusiasm can suck the energy right out of the room or sanctuary.

I have been inspired by our new families and the energy they bring. I'm drawn to them because they are eager and are like sponges soaking it all up. I feel I am always try to prove myself to the lifers. Trying to get them excited about church once again. The amount of energy it takes to do that is draining and frustration is always around the corner. If I had my choice, I would rearrange church where there would be 5 new families for every one lifer family. But the reality is, unless you are a new church start, that is not usually the case.

How do you cultivate these new families and give their fires more fuel and oxygen? How do you remind the lifers that church is more than a family obligation? How do you replace duty for passion? Maybe that answer will come when I shovel the driveway on another day.

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