Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Wal-Martization of the Local Church

A couple of weeks ago I was at a meeting where Leonard Sweet was speaking. He mentioned the Wal-Martization of the local church. I had not heard that term before, but it seemed eerily appropriate for what I have been seeing lately. For instance, last week I was visiting good prospects (i.e., they had already visited our church and had a good experience there) for the large church of which I am a member. (I am not on staff there.) I happened to visit a young couple that has several young children. They are the type of family that any SBC church would want to have. The woman said I looked familiar, and we soon discovered that she had heard me preach about six months ago at the small church she had been attending. I began to feel guilty about inviting them back to our large church because I remembered that the small church had very few children. I decided, however, that the couple has every right to take their children to a church where there are excellent children's programs that will help in their spiritual education. I saw the woman last Sunday, and she told me that her oldest child had made a profession of faith in one of the morning worship services. I guess I still have mixed feelings about this. I feel sorry for the small church that the family left behind. It seems to be mostly composed of senior adults, as are many of our SBC churches. I rejoice, however, that the family has found a church home where there are excellent children's programs that will help in the evangelization and spiritual growth of the children.


Blogger David Rogers said...

When it comes down to it, our kids, and the type of spiritual environment they are exposed to, is a very important consideration.

However, that aside, I think a more important factor in deciding where to join in fellowship locally with other believers is not so much where do I get fed spiritually, as much as where can I make the best contribution to the edifying of Christ's Body, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Fri Mar 02, 10:21:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

I agree. Sometimes determining which church needs us the most is a tough call. The big churches have great difficulty finding people willing to serve; it's just easier to hide in a big church. Best wishes to you and your family, David.

Sun Mar 04, 11:07:00 AM 2007  
Blogger B Nettles said...

I'm not convinced that the typical big SB church does a better job at "evangelization and spriritual growth" of young children than a smaller, more "senior" church. Typically, both try to get children baptized, thinking that is the most important thing. Being at a church with lots of college students, I routinely hear about "walking the aisle and getting baptized when I was 6, but I didn't really understand what I was doing." I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but of the baptisms in SB churches in the past 10 years, I've heard that about 60% are 2nd-timers who were dunked as children. There is a theological problem, not a size problem, in our churches.

As far as spiritual growth, can't loving senior adults in an intimate small church setting do as good or better than a mega-church with scads of kids that need corralling. I know I've generalized, but so did you, assuming that the younger, bigger was better.

The smaller churches do give more intimacy and familiarity and opportunity for functioning in the body. I just moved and have joined a smaller congregation, and I do miss the bigness just a little. But the elders are "of us" and not "over us" and they know us closely and are able to bring the ministry of the Word on a personal level. That's more important than any program that might be available.

On the other hand, the family you talked with may have been looking for more interaction with couples with children. I can understand that, too, because that's what is happening at our new church. LOTS of young couples, and their progeny. It will be interesting to see how the elders handle ministering to adolescents/teenagers when the time comes.

Fri Mar 30, 10:50:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Bill, thanks for visiting my blog. Paul is enjoying your class. In regard to children's ministries, a lot depends on the workers, whether they are in a large or a small church. These days, criminal background checks must be done, and at least two adults (not related) must be with each group of children. Training is also very important. My wife has a seminary degree and an undergraduate degree in children's ministries, and it's amazing what she does with the children.

Fri Mar 30, 03:40:00 PM 2007  

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