What Rocky Said (and More)

rockyYesterday, Rocky Supinger  – a gifted pastor and colleague who works with youth in California – wrote this provocative statement in his blog:

Maybe my students need church to be the thing that backs down and that expects whatever percentage of themselves they’re able to give–today.

You can read the whole post here.  And read the comments too.

Our church kids are busy.  Our church adults are busy.  And church should never be something that shames us, overwhelms us, guilts us, or bores us.  But consider the comments we occasionally hear in church about families that disappoint:

  • They never do their share as  volunteers.
  • They drop their kids off and go to Starbucks.
  • They won’t bring their kids to youth group.
  • They never help with Vacation Bible School.
  • They are always late for worship.
  • They used the church for baptism and then they left.

Maybe we are missing the basic point.  Our youth, our children, our adults are not expected to “come” to perpetuate and maintain an institution.  Spiritual communities should engage and refresh and lighten the load.  The point is to build a relationship with God and with each other.

So what do we do when our people are exhausted and overwhelmed?  Rocky says, “Maybe it’s the church that should back off.”


In my first church, I met with a family early in my years there whom  – I’d heard – were once very active in the congregation, but now they stayed away. The family included Mom, Dad, and three elementary school kids.  I visited in hopes of convincing them that it would be great to have them “back” again.  But the dad said something like this:

The last pastor told us that we should stay home on Sunday mornings because it’s the only time of the week that all of us are home and we need that family time.  My wife works nights.  I work days.  The kids have lots of activities.  But we need a Sabbath.  We need one day when we can stay home in our pajamas and eat a big breakfast and hang out together with no stress.”

I didn’t buy it.  What pastor would tell a family to stay home on Sunday mornings?  Maybe the last pastor said that or maybe he didn’t.  But I get it now.

Families long for down time.  Is it the church that should back off?

One of the most fundamental questions we must ask ourselves as church leaders is this:

  • Is our goal to create programs that make us feel successful?  (e.g. lots of people, stuff, events)
  • Or is our goal to create a spiritual community that is safe, inclusive, holy, and reflective of God’s love?

One of my smart colleagues AD has suggested that – just as adults often meet for Faith on Tap, God Talk on Tap, etc. – maybe something similar could be offered for youth which involves meeting in dairy bars or Chinese take out restaurants.  Imagine churches offering something – in addition to the regularly scheduled programming – that involves informal conversation around spiritual topics from money to gun violence to sex.  Drop in.  Bring friends.  No pressure.

In my ongoing effort to encourage churches to increase the number of portals through which people can enter the community, this is one idea that allows kids and their parents to participate as they can, when they can.  And depending on the leadership (which like all church leadership needs to be equipped and gifted) it might attract people who would never step foot in a church building.  Just a thought.





3 responses to “What Rocky Said (and More)

  1. What you highlight is one of the reasons we started the once a month Saturday night service, with no worship Sunday morning. People wanted to do what God was calling them to do, but they were too tired to do it.


  2. I agree with so much of that but there’s still a “but”….Do we do families a disservice when our expectations are too low for their participation in the community? Can we help them remove some other things from their very full plate so they’re not too tired? There’s just so much stuff on the plate. And I think many look around once the kids are grown and then say, “Oops! We never did help them make room for God.”


  3. Pingback: Revisiting “The Church Should Be The Thing That Backs Down” | YoRocko!

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