The answer to this question is hidden in the following two actual experiences. See if you can find it…
Bill and Melody McKay held the hands of their two daughters (age 6 and 9) as they stood in front of the congregation that Sunday morning to become new members of the church. The couple answered the pastor’s several questions, briefly shared their faith story, and hugged the pastor as the congregation applauded and welcomed them into membership. Many of the members smiled and nodded to them as they returned to their seats. The McKays were very happy and looking forward to a long, growing relationship with the people in their new church.
Eleven months later, after those warm words of welcome and reception into membership, Bill, Melody, Kylie and Melissa were inactive. They had not been to church or Sunday School in the last two months, and would probably not attend the church again. There was no falling out with the pastor or people. There was no conflict in theology. The problem was that neither Bill, Melody nor their two girls had ever been assimilated into the life and fellowship of that church. What was worse, few people even knew the family had drifted out the back door. When they joined the church, Bill and Melody had no intention of dropping out. But they did. What happened?
The answer, in retrospect, was painfully simple…
“Do we HAVE to go? I don’t have any friends there,” Kylie said one Saturday night about four months after they had joined. “Me, neither,” echoed Melissa.
“Well, have you tried being friends with anyone in your class,” asked Melody, a little concerned with her children’s comments.
“Yeah. No one sits by me,” Kylie said.
“You know,” Bill said to his wife after overhearing the conversation, “I haven’t been all that overwhelmed with people wanting to connect with me, either.”
That conversation was the first time the sprouts had surfaced. But the seeds had been growing for some time. Not that it had been intentional on the part of any adult or child in the church. But the church members had been “family” for so long that no one seemed to think about adopting anyone new.
The following Sunday morning the family decided to go on a picnic in the park. The next weekend the girls had been invited to a sleep-over with a neighbor family. Before Bill and Melody realized it, it had become easier not to go to church…than to go.
The two girls could hardly wait for the car to stop before they jumped out and went running across the parking lot. “Watch for cars!” Jenny shouted to her kids, as she gathered her Bible and study notes. “We were really lucky to find this church, huh?” she said to her husband.
“Well, I’m not sure I’d call it ‘luck’,” Mark said with a smile.
As the couple walked toward the building, Jenny thought back to the first time they had crossed that parking lot a little over a year ago. Their family had just moved into town, and Jenny thought a church would be a good place for the girls, and Mark, to make friends. Her, too, for that matter.
She remembered that first Sunday when a young couple about their age had introduced themselves, and Jenny felt an immediate connection. The woman, Jill Sorenson, had since become one of Jenny’s best friends. Jill had offered to take the girls to their class, and Jenny remembered being impressed with how the teacher had taken time to introduce her two girls to others in the class and encourage the classmates to be especially nice to their “new friends.”
That first Sunday Jill and her husband invited her and Mark to sit with them in the service. Afterwards, they introduced them to several other couples their age. Jill asked whether their family had any plans after church and invited them to their favorite fast food restaurant.
“I’ll have to check with the girls,” responded Jenny.
“Mom…Mom…” shouted the girls as Jenny met them in their classroom after church. “Christy asked us if we can go to her birthday party next Saturday. Can we?”
“Well, we’ll have to find out more about it,” responded Jenny with a laugh.
“Hi, Jenny.” Jill’s voice snapped Jenny out of her recollections from a year ago. “Wasn’t that an awesome concert last night?”
Author’s note: The answer to the question? Relationships!!