Tuesday, November 07, 2006

meandering thoughts on work and church

Yesterday I went to the school for severely disabled students in my area. I just needed to pick up some paperwork, but ran into a former coworker, who took me around to see some of my early intervention graduates. Eight or ten of my former students were there. The last time I saw any of them, they were two years old, and they're all in grade school now. They were all in wheelchairs; none of them were verbal. Though it was fun to see them, I left the school sad. I spent hours and hours with each of those children when they were babies - stretching otherwise unused muscles, singing nursery rhymes, reading books, pointing to pictures, teaching them to sit up or crawl or walk. Did any of my efforts change the prognosis for those kids? Did I honestly think they would? Did I really think, before yesterday, that those kids were going to wake up one day and climb trees and talk back to their parents? If not, then why do I do what I do?

And what is the measure of success? Looking back, was I wasting my time? Or was it enough to get to be a part of their lives for a little while?

I feel the same way about church. I love our church, and I'm not nearly as critical or bitter as I was a year ago toward the church in general, so I say this with no intention of condemnation. It bothers me that the American church, in general, uses a business model for growth. We have vision statements and projections and action plans, and we measure success and failure by what is seen. Why can't it be enough to get to be a part of people's lives for a while, to love and serve and obey, as we were told to do? If this isn't our goal, then what exactly are we trying to accomplish? And how are we measuring success?

I don't really know what I'm trying to say tonight - I'm thinking out loud, more than anything else. But I do know this: as I think back on the time I spent with those children, in particular, it doesn't feel like wasted time. I loved those children. And love for its own sake is the best measure of success I know.


Nick M. said...

You absolutely did not waste anyones time with those children. Even if they are non-verbal or in wheel chairs you can't (nor can anyone else)begin to know what you may have done for their mental well being. God has definitely blessed and used you.

I agree with you on the "church business model" We had our charge conference tonight and adopted the new church budget. It is a little tough to look at that pie chart they gave out and see that "ministries" only made up 9% of the overall church budget. Seems a little lopsided but we have to work with what we are given and allow God to honor that.

Lane said...

Hmmm...very, very good thoughts today.

I've had this conversation this year in my foray into drug and alocohol rehab. Only about 10-15 percent of anybody who enters rehab stays clean. Does that mean 90-85 percent of work is done in vain?

At the same time, I've just finished reading a book for class, "Upon This Rock", in which an African American church in Brooklyn, New York completely changes a community in one of the most destitute neighborhoods in New York with...ready...a business model of the church. The pastor ran things with the iron hand of business and yet people's lives were changed, the gospel was preached, ect., ect.

What does this mean? If you can write a 10-15 page paper for me on this question I'll pay you $50.

Valerie said...

I realized today that I need to be writing more emails.

Heather said...

But what you said, about it being enough to be a part of someone's life, to love and obey. That speaks to me. Meandering or not.

buf said...

lyou're right. love ..and the time spent giving and receiving it (for those babies love(d) you, too)..is never wasted, no matter the outcome. my LovedOne was formerly with a ...not-so-nice-crazy-person (for lack of a better term) and she's always telling me she laments the time wasted and I can't seem to make her understand, any time spent loving and trying to help people is NEVER wasted.

I mean, if a doctor spends ten minutes massaging your exposed heart, trying to get it to start pumping on its own again...and it just never does - was the doctor's time wasted? nope. I <3 ya, Stogie... - jab

Martha said...

You brought hope to parents and gave joy to children. Who's to say that they didn't remember you, Stephanie? They might not have been able to verbalize it, but then joy has only one consonant, yet it reverberates....

About the consumer Christianity, a friend of mine (actually a co-teacher), expressed her bewilderment yesterday. She has three grade-school children who are heavily involved in Church, and to her, it's all become entertainment. To paraphrase her comments, she said that children don't go to church to learn anymore but rather to be entertained. Adults don't really go to worship, either, but to socialize and therein find entertainment. While church is a social institution, the reward should be from learning and obeying and worshiping, exactly what you have said.

I hope my words reach you on this Veteran's Day. Remember not only the heroes, but those who simply serve.

Each has her place.