Right after our Vacation Bible School a couple of months ago, I had a revelation. Sorry, nothing supernatural, just some clarity about people and church and people who go to church and people who don’t hardly ever go to church.
Here it is: “church” means different things to different people. Let me tell you what I mean.
I had an amazingly easy time recruiting volunteers for Vacation Bible School this year. In fact, I had people coming to me asking to help out. I actually had more help than I needed, but I found something for everyone to do. In fact, I believe we actually had more leaders than children come this year. This is church
They came faithfully every night, they took their jobs seriously, they worked hard and did a great job and even stayed after to help clean up. The thing is, a decent number of my volunteers don’t even come to church very much if at all. A few times a year at best.
Then it hit me. Vacation Bible School is church to some people! This is their dose of spiritual input for the year. For them we pack a whole year of worship, learning, prayer, fellowship and service into five consecutive nights in June. I will not see some of them again till next year, but I know without a doubt that they will be back.
I am not saying this is good or bad. It is just different. It certainly is different than church for those like me who grew up going to a worship service and a bible class every Sunday for a few hours throughout the year. For some, church is the summer mission trip, when you spend a week of worship, service and fellowship in a place far away. For some, church is the small group they attend, discussing the bible and life with some close friends. For some, church is attending a parochial school each day. For still others, church is the special events they attend — from concerts to kids programs to cookouts and carnivals.
I was taught to be very judgmental about those whose weekly church attendance was spotty at best. My Pharisaical side loves to look down on people like that as I congratulate myself for my faithfulness. I’ve learned that it’s not especially productive (or spiritual) to do that.
For those who didn’t grow up going to church every week like I did had their own experience that makes sense to them. While I do believe that gathering often with your church family around word and sacrament is a tremendous blessing, it’s not even on some folks radar. I’m thankful for the week here or there I have with them. Maybe God will stir them to want something more.
I wonder if we should expand our definition or boundaries of “church.” It probably includes more people than we think. Or even know about.