With People Flocking Away from Church, Marion Pastor 'Apologizes,' Blogs
Kevin Jones, the Marion pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, spoke with me about his continued effort to approach the old ideas of church in a new way.
Kevin Jones is open to the the idea of change, but it still scares him.
"It drives me crazy," he said.
The pastor of the Lutheran Church of The Resurrection has been watching as attendance at Lutheran churches has dropped 6 percent in the last 10 years and has seen his congregation’s population stagnate, while living in a growing community.
After reading countless articles and blog posts on why many are leaving the church, he’s written a nine-part blog series, "apologizing" for people leaving the church and what he considers his part in it. He's refocused his efforts on the church to provide a new direction, but it’s unclear and too soon to tell if anything is gong to stick.
"That’s frustrating," he said. "To stand up in front of a congregation and say I have to change, we have to change, but I don’t know what we are changing to."
But, at the very least, he said he knows much of what is going wrong.
That means doing away with what’s called the "one-size fits all model of theology," among other things.
Instead of using his faith and his understanding of spirituality as the model for the church’s message, which can alienate those that have a different personal relationship with Christianity, he would like to see himself as a spiritual resource that people can come to.
That also means not approaching the church like it’s a business. He’s said he’s fallen into the trap of relying on membership numbers as an effective measure of success, instead of considering the ignoble effects of what he does — like whether what he’s done has helped others.
So, what’s changed?
Part of this change means taking action in the community, in a way that honest reflects the message of the church instead of trying solely to recruit new members.
"We are really called to be servants and to serve others in need," he said. "I think it helps people realize that there are people in needs in their community."
But is it working?
Jones said he doesn’t know whether or not these changes is helping his congregation become healthier or larger.
He does know that members of his congregation are now more aware then ever of the problems that the church faces. The key now is to balance those changes with the members of the parish that simply like things the way they are.
He’s noticed an encouraging response to his apology blogs and the openness that he showed in admitting fault.
He said this open dialogue is really only the start of the challenge of fixing a problem without a clear solution.