When I was in third grade I was diagnosed with ADD. I don’t remember every drug they tried but I remember that I took a drug called Cylert because none of the other drugs worked. For most of you that means nothing at all so I want to tell you a little bit about Cylert. Now when most people hear ADD or ADHD they instantly go to Ritalin because that is what is most often prescribed and for people with ADD or ADHD it tends to help them alot. But if Ritalin doesn’t work they try a couple of other things that get incrementally more dangerous as you go up. Cylert is the top of the chart. I had to get liver tests every 6 months to make sure that it wasn’t doing too much damage. When I was diagnosed ADD was kind of the cutting edge diagnosis. Basically if he is overactive and we don’t know what it is we’ll call it ADD. Its further confused because ADD has no unique symptoms, its shares symptoms with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. When I was 25 I was re-diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and to my surprise the very first medication I was prescribed did wonders! Cylert is a stimulant so it messes with your system quite a bit and what I’m on now is not and doesn’t require blood tests. So for almost 16 I had been on a dangerous drug that did nothing but put me in a fog because I was misdiagnosed.
Now I know I’m a minister and this is supposed to be a spiritual blog, don’t worry I had to tell you all of that to start you off where I was when I thought of something. The reason all medications for ADD didn’t work was because I didn’t have ADD. Now they found something that kind of dealt with the symptoms but it never really helped with the problem. I think we at times do something similar to that in our churches. We notice problems the church is suffering with and we start throwing programming at it. “Oh our parents don’t seem to know how to effectively parent there kids? Let’s do a series of parenting classes.” “Oh the older members are complaining alot about not being considered? Lets start a golden oldies class so we they can have a class they feel is directed to them.” “Hey our teens don’t seem to have very much biblical knowledge! Lets start a Bible Bowl ministry so we can get them to study more.” Now I am not saying programming is wrong, that we shouldn’t have it, or even that they aren’t doing any good. What I’m asking is are we throwing medications at the symptoms and not spending time looking at the problem.
What if the parents don’t know how to parent because their parents used all the programs we are throwing but didn’t understand the basic concepts and principles of parenting? What if they know what to do but not why they are doing it? What if the reason the older members are complaining about being neglected because they are lonely? What if the problems they are having have nothing to do with what happens on Wednesdays and Sundays but the fact that those are the only times they see anyone? What if the reason the kids don’t have a whole lot of knowledge is because the children’s ministry has been hodgepodged for 30 years and no real lesson plan has assured they get a good foundation? What if the problem is that parents aren’t taking time to study themselves and expecting the programs at church to take care of their kids for them?
If all we are doing is coming up with different programs to deal with the symptoms and not the problem we might find some things that help for a while but eventually they won’t work any more. Then we’ll have to do a bigger program that takes up more man hours and more energy. But what if the parenting classes we chose to implement taught less about what to do and more why to do it? What if we started getting the retirees together for lunch a couple days a week so that they could see each other?
In my experience what we tend to do as a fellowship is throw money and programming at problems so that we can deal with them super fast and often times we don’t stop to look if what we are doing is actually addressing the problem. To do that risks people getting fed up and leaving and that means our membership will go down. If our membership goes down we won’t be able to maintain the programming we have going financially and man power wise. Those are very real concerns, but I truly believe that if we will take the time to address the problems and not the complaints we will find our congregations more energized and less programmed into compliance because they are doing so many things they don’t have time to stop and see the problems.
I think that if we stopped and looked we would find that the programming necessary to address the problems people in the congregation are having, we would find that the answers are very simple, very easy to implement, and you will have a hard time finding work for all the volunteers to do.