This past week we decided that our local Girl Scout Troop, at least the girls who will be moving up to 4th grade, wouldn’t be meeting next year. After a strong push to keep it going over the past couple of years, present leadership would be stepping down (for good reasons) and there just isn’t anyone else who is willing for able to take over; me included.
While I was a Boy Scout in an active troop while growing up, I’ve never really got into it with my own kids. Living in small towns has made it more challenging. When our son was in scouting there were only three boys in his “den.” And when one of the boys coundn’t be there, there were only two — hardly a group at all. When he was old enough for, officially, Boy Scouts, we decided that we weren’t really into it enough to warrant a 30 mile trip for Scout meetings. And we dropped out.
When our older girls were in Girl Scouts there was one mom who tried to hold it together. There were some activities. There was an overnight at a cabin. But competing schedules got the better of the group eventually.
And now, this has been our third time our family has been somewhat involved in scouting. And, this time, with 6 active girls we’ve not been able to keep it going.
As I see it, while all the parents thought Girls Scouts was “a great idea” and “a good thing” for their girls to be part of, the hoops to jump through for badges seemed arbitrary and the effort put in to official Girl Scout business (like cookie sales) seemed overwhelming at times. Everyone liked the one parent who was trying to hold it all together. Everyone appreciated our church for providing space and support. Everyone thought all the parents were great. Everyone liked the girls. And the girls, truly, had a great time together.
But, in the end, they could have a great time together with or without Scouting. There just wasn’t enough “buy-in” to the whole “Scouting thing.”
And so it’s going to fade away.
We’ll have our “bridge ceremony” to close out the year. Our girls will be handed their last badges. Yet in our family those badges will join the stacks of badges lying around the house that have yet to be sewn onto their vests because we just didn’t care enough. It was never high on our priority list.
And while the “idea” of Girl Scouts will be missed, I’m not sure the actual meetings will be. Other things will come in and take that time. We’ll just buy our cookies from somewhere else.
This past week the fading away of our Girls Scout Troop had me reflecting on church life — and death.
There are churches that close because there is some horrible argument — theological or personal — that tears away their foundations, making them too weak to stand.
There are churches that overreach — they build bigger than they can afford and can’t keep up or invest all of their energies into ministries that just don’t pan out.
There are churches where terrible mistakes are made and their membership leaves.
But, more often than not, I don’t think it’s as dramatic as that. The closing of churches, I think, is usually much less exciting. I think it’s a long, slow process where mistakes are made, opportunities for mission are missed, more attractive options for churches move into town or more attractive distractions for time are available. And, eventually, over time, a church just fades away, closing it’s doors.
And while people may miss the “idea” of a particular church, people will find new things to take up their time and may even find new, and better relationships to bring the holy into their lives. I’m not sure, in many cases, whether much will be missed about the church that closed.
So, as pastor, part of my job is to help persons connect with the church in ways that are meaningful, by having the church connect, meaningfully, with the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. I want our congregations to see that they are part of something big and I want our communities to recognize that our churches would be missed if they weren’t around. We can’t protect against every argument or mistake or overreach, but we can help them see that this is something that matters — that has life or death (and life after death) implications, that affects the community, and that builds relationships that are important in this life.
We don’t want to fade away.