I work in a town of about 3000 people. In Wendell, there is a Mormon church, a Reformed Church (New Life) and the Presbyterian church I work at. There are a few others (Methodist, Catholic, Baptist) – but they are very small. Most of the youth in Wendell either go to New Life, our church or the Mormon church. A few years before I came here, our previous youth director did a few joint-events with New Life – and the kids saw that their group was bigger, church had more money and their youth room was cooler. So, many of our kids started going to New Life.
Many people in my church, my pastor specifically, were offended/hurt by that and want to make sure we don’t “lose” more kids to their church [interesting, that we use the term ‘lose’ to begin with — oh no, kids going where they are enjoying fellowship and learning about Christ]. My pastor approached me yesterday about the possibility of getting a band/musician to come perform in our new church building this spring, and I remembered that the youth pastor from New Life and I had talked about doing a joint-concert event, being able to split the cost (while New Life has a larger budget than we do – we’re still both small-town churches), get more people to benefit from it, etc. I wrote my pastor about it, and he wrote back just talking about relations with that church and our youth programs, etc. He mentioned that while these issues may seem petty to me now, he said, “…if you are ever the pastor of a church you’ll know the feeling of people leaving your church to go to another church.”
So, my question is, am I just at an age where I don’t get it? Sure, I’m a young/brash/youth-pastor — but maybe there is in fact something wrong with this line of thinking. Yes, I don’t think you should just hop around to the next church if you “don’t feel like you’re being fed” — part of being the body of Christ is definitely a commitment to a certain church body – to a certain community of people – who you say “You know what – sometimes I love this place – sometimes it sucks – but I want to share my life with you and figure out what it means to follow Christ.”
But should we really view it as “losing” people to another church? What does church unity look like in a small town? I think it’s even harder than in bigger cities [granted, I’m speaking having only experienced working in a small church in a small town]. Thoughts?