When People Are Too Busy for Church

By Rob Blezard, May 22, 2013

“Pastor, we’d love to come to church, but we don’t have time!”
“Pastor, we need Sunday morning to sleep in. We’re tired.”
“Pastor, I have to work on weekends.”
“Pastor, the kids have sports on Sunday.”

As leader of a Mainline congregation, I hear this  type of comment regularly. Though tempted to lecture these families on the need to set better priorities or be more disciplined, I instead find myself sympathizing.  Fact is, our culture keeps people busier more harried than ever.

Although some people have eagerly paddled into the rapids of American culture that emphasizes overconsumption of everything, including time and experiences, many others have been pushed into the whitewater by economics that threatens middle-income-to-poor families. Because their wages have been stagnant for decades and many of the better-paying jobs have gone offshore, they are forced to work harder and harder just to get by.

And there’s a domino effect where the kids are concerned. With both parents working, and working harder, their children need more and more activities to keep them busy and supervised. Hence, the rise of soccer leagues and after-school programs that stretch into Sunday.

With so much going on, it’s a wonder anybody still comes to church.

But at the same time, churches aren’t doing much to help. Even as people’s lives have changed dramatically, our model for gathering as a worship community is still stuck in the 1960s: Wake up early on Sunday, rouse the kids, get them fed and dressed, and show up to church.

We need alternative ways to be a church, but what? Different worship times? Different activities? Other models for gathering? Does anybody have a solution? Over the coming months I plan to revisit this issue again, but I’d like to hear from leaders who have ideas, or who have solutions that have worked for their congregations..

If you have an idea or comment,  please reply. Thanks!

About the Author

Rob Blezard is the website content editor for the Stewardship of Life Institute and serves as an assistant to the Bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA, in central Pennsylvania. See more posts by .

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1 Comment

  1. We have come to the realization that we are excluding from the active ministry life of congregations those people who have work/family concerns that conflict with “the way we’ve always done it.” Certainly, any idea is contextually rooted, but I think it has to begin with listening to those folks who aren’t there, not for what they want/need FROM the church as much as what they are passionate about from the wellspring of faith.
    Now, it may be naive to thing that everyone who is missing from Sunday worship is looking for a faithful outlet, but we have to start listening.

    A leader recently mentioned how they didn’t understand why more parents weren’t volunteering to help at our 9a-12p VBS. When we discussed how over committed folks were, most families/parents working (that was not the norm for this context for a long time), it became evident they weren’t volunteering simply because they weren’t able to due to our choice of program times. And so, looking ahead, we may have to consider evening VBS or 3-day/evening VBS, or perhaps even offering both to provide for the broadest range of availability.
    The concern, then, becomes the real and available human resources within the congregation and whether or not there is enough personnel/volunteers with enough energy to take that on.
    That’s one example, and it may not be the best, but I am grateful you are and will be exploring this.

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