Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now the Silence, Now the...Silence...

The padre and I were talking the other day about an interesting dynamic of our church: the almost total lack of feedback we receive from parishoners about anything -- anything.

Our education committee had met earlier in the week, members all dispirited because every attempt they've made to interest young families in our new religious education schedule seems to fail. And they don't know why, because no one will talk to them. Attempts to elicit positive, proactive information from this demographic -- What is it that you do want for your children's religious education? -- are met with silence, or "Dunno."

Our pastor had to tell the group, Welcome to my world.

I certainly experience this as person-in-charge of our church's online properties. I can't tell you how often I've tried to, say, incorporate lighthearted quizzes on our church Facebook page, or cajole readers into submitting questions for our Wednesday Whys feature -- and get no response at all. Whenever anyone comments on our church blog, it's a friend of Hope from outside our congregation.

And yet we have a healthily growing congregation; we've been holding new-member classes now just about every other month. People seem to like us, and keep coming back.

So why won't these people talk to us?

I don't know. Does anyone else have this dynamic in their congregation, or is it just us?


Megan said...

You are not alone! We get zero feedback here--yet people seem to be happy with what we have going on. I wonder if some are so involved in the other aspects of their lives that church is a place where they decided to just participate by going with the flow?

Our other conundrum is similar: No one signs up for anything. Only three people signed up for our annual leaf-raking party and yet 25 people showed up (despite the pouring rain and 38 degree temps). Or if you approach someone and say, "Can you..." or "Are you planning on..." the answer is almost always yes, they just don't seem to want to commit it to a piece of paper??

Anonymous said...

Heh. fwiw, my background is in the social sciences, survey research. And one of the first things they teach you is that when people speak up, it's usually because they feel very strongly and very negatively about something. (How many times do people volunteer compliments to organizations they're involved with -- like schools, businesses, agencies and yes, churches -- as opposed to complaints?)

It's like the joke about the kid who didn't talk until he was four years old. The parents assume he was mute and are resigned. Then one day he says, "My pancake is cold."

And the parents go crazy with excitement that their little boy could talk after all, and then they ask, "Why haven't you ever talked before?"

And the kid says, "Everything was all right until now."

Pastor Julia said...

This is totally my experience. I also get the response, "We're happy with everything you do." (Really?)

I try to continue to give (2) options where possible and otherwise tell people that I made the best decision I could since no one else seemed to care.

I think people are also struggling as the church moves to more lay input. Many people here grew up with pastors/priests as "decider". Because there is still some timidity about "getting it wrong" or appearing dumb, I think people are afraid to speak up.


But you are DEFINITELY not alone.

Joan of Quark said...

I think some people regress to the uncommunicative part of their teens when they go to church. (Others to the toddler tantrum phase, especially if on the PCC/vestry, but I digress...).

What would you like us to do next?
-- Blank looks...
Any suggestions? Which bits did you like?
-- Um, y'know, stuff...

I think the idea above of presenting a list of options is good, perhaps with a final "or anything else you suggest" added?

Anglolutheran said...

If it doesn't happen on Sunday, forget it
Our congregation is in a state of transition and ideas were solicited to aid growth, but unless the putative program could31 be on Sunday---