Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The LDS Church needs to invest in our youth

The PTO at my daughter's school is one of the organizations to which I don't mind giving. They provide a detailed accounting of all funds, and if asked, they will answer questions. They could choose not to, but I appreciate it when they take the time to let us know on what projects they choose to spend cash donations.

The Darlington County Habitat for Humanity will, on request, demonstrate how they allocate their receipts. I would still give if they didn't, but I appreciate that they're open about how funds are spent.

I pay a full tithe. I trust the leadership to make righteous decisions about the money over which they have stewardship. I would appreciate knowing the distribution of tithing funds and how they are allocated. I would also enjoy having more funds locally with which to hold activities and events that we can invite the public to like our nativity set showcase (we have about 150 nativities and creches set up). We have a gigantic lot behind the church, big enough for three softball fields. So far my requests to have a pavilion installed with a gas BBQ pit, ceiling fans, and picnic tables have been greeted with buck passing and friendly dissembling from the stake president.

If you go to locally successful churches, you will find "teen centers" and full service kitchens. People come to church activities and truly linger longer. The Episcopal Church here has an amazing professional kitchen, and the parties there are top notch. The teen center at Lakeview Baptist has tons of couches, a stage with a drumset, guitar amps, and a piano. It also has a big TV with an xbox, a dance floor with a disco ball, and an indoor basketball/volleyball gym. Teenagers love to hang out there, and activity night on Wednesday is packed (granted, they also have a full-time paid youth minister to oversee programs).

In these parts, the Methodists have excellent BSA troops with Centennial Quality awards that aren't ephemeral. They have equipment, troop trailers, and out buildings specifically for storage of scouting equipment. Non-Methodists send their kids to the Methodist scout troop because of how well-run and awesome it is.

The Catholic Church here has fish fries all the time. They do rummage sales, chicken bogs, Low Country boils, and other activities. They also maintain a regional food bank and will get infants a no-frills car seat on the recommendation of a physician or ecclesiastical leader.

Just about every denomination in town has a pre-k and kindergarten (at one of their locations) except for the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Methodists founded an honest-to-goodness no-questions-asked soup kitchen M-F that feeds between 60-110 people a day. My ward helps cook twice a month.

Almost all of the Baptist churches contribute to the funding of Upward soccer, basketball, and cheerleading. Great people like Mitch Outlaw volunteer hours upon hours of their lives to make kids have a great time and to enjoy being at church, learning about the Gospel in a fun environment.

The Salvation Army employs mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed people, maintains a food bank, and works with addicted people to get them clean.

I feel like the LDS Church is missing the point outside of Utah. We don't need more proselyting missionaries here; we need service missionaries and members too to have resources sufficient to make a difference in our communities. We've gone from a finding-truth charismatic church led by Joseph Smith to the Corporation of the President with the sure signs following of bureaucracy and an epistemological elite.

The routinization of charisma in our church is essentially complete.

4 comments:

Mary said...

I understand your frustration, but I guess as a fellow "person who has an opinion about everything", I feel I must make a rebuttal to your claims.

I'm sorry your ward/stake seems to be lamely uninvolved in the community, but I think it's an unfair assessment to say that the church as a whole has "gone from a finding-truth charismatic church led by Joseph Smith to the Corporation of the President with the sure signs following of bureaucracy and epistemological elite."

I served my mission in Montana, and there were wards of all different flavors. There was one in particular that did just what you described and had a nativity night, where people of all Christian sects could contribute by bringing their different nativity scenes and display them. People in the whole community came, and they do it every year. That same ward held a community Christmas concert every year, anyone in the community could be in the choir. The different churches in the community rotated who would be in charge of directing the music -- but they always used the LDS building because it was the only one big enough to hold all the people that came.

I could come up with many other examples of wards reaching out to the community in fellowship and service, some I've been able to participate in myself (much of was when I was a missionary – sorry the missionaries in your area are slacking in that category). I guess what I'm trying to say is: while church doctrine and policy is the same everywhere, every ward seems to have its own little culture. Some ward cultures are more favorable and inline with the gospel than others.

This church isn’t built to entertain the youth with Xboxes, drums, and disco balls. Those are nice things that those churches have, but they’re not essential. I don’t want my children going to church because they think it’s cool. I want them to go so they can know the truth, feel the Spirit, so they can learn how to serve and learn how to deal with people who are imperfect.

Which brings me to what I think is the root of your problem. Your ward and stake are filled with imperfect people. Maybe they haven’t read the handbook and their focus isn’t right. Maybe it is right and it’s just a different agenda than what yours would be. Maybe the problem is in the home. Perhaps your view of what's going on in your own ward is incomplete.

I have to say I laughed when I saw that you requested a pavilion to be built with a gas BBQ pit, ceiling fans. Jeez, you don’t need all that to have a community get together. Just borrow someone’s grill, park it in the grass and party! Sure it may not be as fancy without the disco ball, but community fellowship isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses, now is it?

Mac said...

Mary,

Other LDS chapels have exactly what I've requested. My desire is to have something adequate for our ward to hold functions. Additionally, you always ask for more than you need when a bureaucracy controls the funds.

There's no vanity in my effort, and I find it odd that you attribute this idea to a covetous keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality. Please think about how dismissively insulting that sounds on my end.

Your response to my post is what I expected from members who think that everything is fine in the Church. It is not. Activity and conversion rates are plummeting because the Church is not responding to the changing demographics of its membership and potential converts. While you see my ward as an aberration, I see your Montana ward in an equal light. I know many LDS people all over the world who feel the same way as I do, and I feel that change doesn't come without agitation.

I state, not specifically to you, but to the world, that dissension is not sedition. Agitation in our church is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your frustration with your church. But if you think everything is perfect in Southern Baptist country, think again. That goes for any and every church, too. Every church has its problems. We usually put on our smiling, happy faces when people come to visit. There are hurting people in every church being ignored while all these wonderful programs are going on.

Mac said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for some perspective on the matter.