Yesterday’s post was about a friend’s story of leaving the church. The conversation took place on Saturday, and has been pulling at my heart ever since. It is, in some ways, very close to my own–at least in the broad brush strokes.
As a result, I decided to invite people to share their own stories about leaving church–and, if applicable, returning after an absence. This morning was spent creating a set of guidance notes and some reflection questions for anyone who would like to share their story in this space.
A sampling of what to expect:
Your privacy will be protected. Your name will not be used; your location not disclosed (contact details are for my use only). For example, instead of saying that you are Joe McCreath who is 55 years old, lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and attended St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church for 25 years but left five years ago, I would change your name to a given name and last initial, indicate you are a man in his mid-50s who attended an Episcopal Church in a medium sized Midwestern city.
(I made all that up–I don’t know a 55 year old Joe McCreath in Des Moines, and I don’t even know if there is a St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church there. Sorry if there is.)
Some things to keep in mind:
- Please answer as much/little as you feel comfortable with, and that applies to you. However, keep in mind that the more you are willing to share, the richer and more compelling the story you will tell. Feel free to add more space as needed.
- Your story must be your own. Please do not tell someone else’s story for them.
- Let your story speak for itself to anyone who reads it. Don’t include advice to readers, or “moral of the story”. It will come through for each reader.
- If your story is related to or contains anything that could be legally actionable, it will not be used.
- The focus is on “regular” people leaving churches because they have been hurt by the church or felt they could not grow spiritually if they remained. Return to church may or may not be part of the story.
- The focus is on adults over 35.
- I reserve the right to select which stories will and will not be included on Past Christian or any subsequent publication based on the material collected.
The kinds of questions you might answer:
Your journey into church
When did you start attending church, and why? (Family habit, friends, conversion experience)
How old were you, or at what stage of life? (baptism, college, adult)
In what denomination did you begin your church life? Have you been a member of more than one, and if so, which ones?
Your journey out of church
When did you realize you might be on your way out of church?
What was the reason you felt you might leave?
Did you talk to anyone in the church about your leaving? If so, whom? At what point in the process of deciding to do so? What were those conversations like?
Effects of leaving
How has your inner life/spirituality changed as a result of being away from church?
What, if anything, has changed (for better or worse) in your relationships with friends/family/members of your former church?
Have your sought/found other outlets for spiritual growth or community? If yes, what were they?
How would you describe your spiritual well-being during your absence from the church?
What, if anything, do/did you miss about church participation? What, if anything, are you doing to fill this space?
What, if anything, has been valuable during your time away from church?
How long have you been/were you away from church? Have you returned?
Did you return to the same denomination/congregation as the one you had previously attended?
How do you feel your return has been handled by:
This is just a sample of the questions to reflect on in telling a story of leaving/returning to church. For further information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (if we are already connected), through Facebook or LinkedIn.
Please do not try to tell your story in the “comments” section of a blog post. First, it’s just not the right venue. Second, let the person whose story is being told be the star for the day (you can have your turn if you play by my rules–they’re not that difficult).
I hope to hear from you soon!