Less Church, Please!


By Chris McKenna

SOver the past month, you’ve probably read a few 30 Hour Famine blog posts written by individuals who visited World Vision Ecuador in September. I had the amazing privilege of being a part of that trip; and even though I’ve been home for just over a month, I’m still somewhat wrecked inside. Meaning, I was given this amazing gift, and I’m still not sure exactly what God wants me to do with it!

I’ve participated in many international mission trips with students over the past twelve years, and we always preach heavily on the difficulties of re-entry. For anyone who has had a mountaintop mission experience, you know what I’m talking about. We tell students to prepare themselves for the “valley of real life” that is waiting for them – complete with family and friends who won’t understand the experience, and a way of life that might seem trivial and trite.

But, this time, it was me! I’m just not sure how to digest all of what God showed me.

So, I will continue to wrestle and wonder. But in the meantime, my Ecuadorian experience has helped me see that although I’ve done a decent job preaching about the developing world, but I’ve pretty lousy job preparing my kids for first world issues they see daily. Meaning, I’ve shown them hundreds of videos about world hunger, slavery, disease and malnutrition. And, they should be aware of these brutal realities. But, on any particular Monday, how will my 7th graders apply those videos to the first world issues they see in their middle school hallways?

And, I think World Vision has pointed me towards part of the answer.

World Vision’s approach to community transformation is community-centric. This means that different communities have different needs; and instead of World Vision dictating the steps to transformation, they instead sit down with community leaders, young and old, and ask, “What things bother you about life in your town?” For one community, the primary issue was violence in the home. For another, it was infant mortality. For another it was drugs; and yet another, environmental degradation. Each of these issues had a unique response from World Vision in partnership with the community.

This led me to ask myself: When was the last time I asked my students, “What things bother you about life in your community/school/town/neighborhood?” The truth is, I’ve never asked them that question. Do I want them to care about the global food crisis? Absolutely. But the reality is that a 12-year old is more likely to make significant change at school, at home, or somewhere local. So, here are some questions and thoughts I’ve been wrestling with:

  • If the student ministry of our church ceased to exist, would any of the schools or the community even notice?
  • Why haven’t I had breakfast with the local principals to ask each of them what issues are most prevalent in their schools?
  • Instead of always asking kids to get involved at church volunteering in the nursery, why not encourage and even train certain students to get involved in student council so they influence school decisions from a Christian perspective?
  • Instead of complaining about sports schedules, why not teach and mentor my talented athletes into being Christ-like leaders on their sports teams?

All of this has me wondering if should do less ministry at church and more ministry in the community. Crazy talk? Who knows: maybe I’ll work my way out of a job. But it feels like I’m on the scent of something. And if any of you have great things you’re doing to partner with schools or your community, I’d love to hear more.