Walking into the meeting, my husband and I knew it wasn’t going to have a good outcome. After more than two years of being on the church plant team, we’d been ask to have “a meeting”. Nothing could have shocked or disappointed us more than the ensuing 45 minute conversation.
It started out innocently enough. After more than two years, the church had doubled in size and we’d gone to two services, with not nearly enough volunteers to cover the needed areas. Our oldest child, wrapping up 5th grade, was getting ready to age out of the children’s program, so I’d asked if she could volunteer to be a helper in some area, and be scheduled for service on the same days/times as me. It seemed simple enough, but it wasn’t.
We were met with a resounding no, she’s too young. Really? Too young to serve snacks and read books to the toddlers? Too young to help the preschool class with crafts? Seriously? This, coupled with some other areas of exclusion, solidified in our daughters mind that she wasn’t really wanted in our church setting. (Little did we know how right she was.)
This created a problem for us on several levels. Our church plant met in a downtown location, surrounded by a mix of homeless, drug dealers and potential human hazards. If my husband and I were both serving in various capacities and the child wasn’t, then where was she to go? Certainly not to be left alone to fend for herself in an area that many of the adults felt uncomfortable in alone. As a mother, my child is my first priority, so I asked to be removed from some scheduling so that I could make sure she was physically safe, and also try to help her not feel as out of place and unwanted, both of which I explained to the children’s ministry director via email.
That’s when the request for “the meeting” with the pastor happened. We didn’t really see what the issue was, but agreed thinking at least we could voice our concerns about the growing number of kids getting ready to age out with the wrapping up of the school year. There was a building uneasiness as the day approached.
We were met with the typical pleasantries and small talk. Then the topic turned to my email. We were informed that it was in fact the pastor who had nixed having our daughter scheduled. He went on for several minutes telling us what mature, well behaved and spiritually strong children we have. We were applauded for being the type of parents who take parenting seriously, and were complemented with “I wish more parents were like you.” Our hard work, faithfulness to service and to tithing, and obvious heart for God were all given the seal of approval.
I sensed a very big impending “but” as the praise for us and our family continued.
“Why do I get the feeling there’s a “but” following all of that?”, I interrupted?
“Because there’s a big but following it”, he said.
We sat dumbstruck as his words fell.
“You, and your children, are expecting to grow spiritually on Sunday’s. I specifically avoid teaching anything deep or overly spiritual on Sunday mornings, and the children's ministry isn’t geared for that either, because it’s not what draws people. …”
“…Maybe this isn’t the church for you.”
“….You’re not the type of people we’re trying to draw.”
“….Maybe you would be better off serving somewhere else.”
Blink, blink, blink. Crickets chirping.
I’m sure this is one of the few times in my life that I’ve been at a loss for words. My husband turned and looked at me, bewildered.
The pastor prattled on about some other things, and as he did a single tear slid down my cheek. He saw me as I brushed it away, and he furrowed his forehead at this totally out of character thing he’d just seen happen in me.
You see, I don’t cry for suffered wrongs, for hurt feelings for broken bones or even death. I cry when I’m dangerously mad. But I wasn’t mad. Deep inside was a pain of revelation…that this is “the American church” in action. This must be how Jesus feels every time the church doors open and He’s not allowed in.
Before we left, the pastor asked “How can I pray for you?” My dear blind friend, it is you that needs prayer. As we left this scripture came to mind:
2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
We stepped out onto the sidewalk and closed the door behind us, not quite sure of what was next. What we were both confident in, is that we’d rather be asked to leave for wanting to grow in God, than to stay and die with the blinded masses.