Fat Doctor’s Angry Mob — A Response

Photo by: whatchamakallit @ flickr

Fat Doctor writes off and on again about her church, which is experiencing some growing pains. Her latest entry about the annual congregational meeting, she writes:

Those of us who are new want to make whatever changes are necessary to stay alive. Some of those who grew up in the church, on the other hand, are terrified of change….We finally agreed (after a long, painful discussion full of emotion) to proceed with plans for our 170th congregational anniversary celebration in June. We plan to have a picnic and family-oriented activities for up to 150 people.

Those who are on the programs and grounds committees, on the other hand, have to make the tough decisions. Where will people park? (“It’s too crowded already!”) Should we offer shuttle service? (“That’s ridiculous! We’d have to borrow a van from another church!“) Do we need tents? (“So expensive!”) Should we serve the food indoors? (“We’ve always served food indoors!”).Change can be scary, can’t it?

Our church is also (and has been for several years) going through significant growth. Frequently, the ones who voice concerns or objections to change are the older members of the congregation, who often get pegged as “mean” or “fearful” as a result.

Are they so mean? Or are they trying to communicate their own needs? Change can be scary:

  • “I don’t like the change from communion wafers to the torn pita bread.” Translation: the larger, more irregular pieces are more difficult to chew. I’m afraid I’ll choke.
  • “That modern music doesn’t belong in a church.” Translation: my hearing aids can’t accomodate the broadcast of electric guitar through the low-bid speakers we installed ten years ago. My ears hurt.
  • “The church is too crowded already.” Translation: I’m unsteady on my feet and I get nervous in crowded situations.
  • “People shouldn’t talk in church.” Translation: I’m already having a difficult time hearing; when you talk during the service, I hear even less of what’s going on.
  • “We always eat inside.” Translation: “I’m afraid of falling. Uneven ground and tippy chairs increase the chance that I might fall.”
  • “It’s so expensive!” Translation: I give what I can out of my fixed income. If we go over budget at the end of the year, I feel obligated to help pay my share in that deficit. I remember what is was like not to have enough to eat. I live within a budget so that will never happen to me again; why can’t my church?
  • “Your children are misbehaving.” Translation: Your children are misbehaving. Wouldn’t you like to do something about that?
  • “We’re growing too fast.”Translation: I helped build this church; its traditions are a comfort and source of memories. I feel dishonored and rejected when we throw those traditions aside. I feel isolated by changes that make it harder for me to participate — my own body is limiting me enough as it is.

Fat Doctor is a kind and insightful woman. Her church is lucky to have her, and I’m hoping she’ll discuss some of the solutions her congregation devises to meld the “old” with the “new.”

7 comments

  1. Thanks for the “translations.” We don’t always hear what the other person is saying because the words are filtered through our own understanding. We all need to question what others are really trying to communicate! It makes me think not only about what I hear, but what the other person may be hearing. Change is often difficult, but a good “translator” can make things easier!

  2. Hey, I’m having trouble posting a comment. Anyhoo, here’s a brief version of the thoughtful one I just tried to post:The fearful complainers in our congregation are all in their mid-40s. They are the last of the children who grew up in the church. Our older members, thankfully, are pushing hard for change. I think they have more world experience and can see that this congregation is dying. They also urge us to spend MORE money on mission work and evangelism, not less. I think the group of complainers is afraid that this church will become a megachurch with 3 morning services. Based on its location, about 5 miles from the nearest main road way out in the country, that will never happen. We currently have 50-60 regular attenders and 30 members. If we were to recruit in two new families with this picnic, especially families with children, then I will feel like we have hope of not dying.

  3. Interesting reply from FD.As I just posted over at her blog, maybe people in their forties are just grouchy…..!Our church has 400 members, with about 200 in regular attendance. Our next significant emotional event will likely be the decision to go to two services. We’re at standing room only now, but are apprehensive about the inevitable changes in the character of a church family that multiple services impose.

  4. I don’t wear hearing aids.I’m not sure what exactly the science is with the problem except that we can get incredible feedback whine from the speakers and that sets off the hearing aids.

  5. One of the underlying issues with the nay sayers is one of control. The most vocal are very control people who keep facade up. When they can not predict or control a situation it gives them stress. In the end we have to let God be in control. I have preaching that off and on for the last few years. One last thing the nay sayers are only about five people. But theist a small congregation that needs consentience to move forward. When the vote came it was a very loud yes without any nays.

  6. Pastor — are you sure you aren’t leading a small Lutheran congregation somewhere in Illinois? Because you sure sound like our pastor!I agree with what you say, and where you’re trying to go. What touched a nerve in FD’s post was the comment about change being scary. It is scary, and it is about being in control — but that doesn’t make the people who are struggling with that change are “mean people” — to clarify — that is not what FD said or implied, but it’s what some in my congregation have said.As I said in the original post, I hope she continues to write about this evolution. Perhaps we’ll be able to steal a page from your notebook.

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