It’s not unusual for the doorbell at our front door to intrude into my afternoon thoughts. Frankly, I always cringe a bit that the front door is locked and that we have a doorbell at all, given our hope of being welcoming and inviting, however security issues are an issue here, our secretary is often alone, and it there is some logic in playing it safe.
When the door beeps in the afternoon however, I am usually sure who will be at the door.
“Pastor Jay, is the gym open?”
Just behind our church, down a small hill, is a major apartment complex. And, almost everyday now, a group of kids from that apartment complex walk up the hill to shoot hoops, either on one of the goals in our parking lot, or preferably in the gym that is a part of our complex. They are mostly in middle school, although an occasional high school guy will show on occasion, for the most part African American, and a nice a group of kids as you might find. They aren’t looking for much when they come — a warm and safe place to play, an cold water fountain, and every once in a while, when the pastor feels overly generous, a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream.
It would be great to say that this was an integral and important part of the ministry in the church that I serve, but honestly, it’s not. It’s not that folks aren’t wanting to offer welcome and hospitality to these kids who are (for the most part) from a different background and status, it’s more of a case that they don’t know how. Yes, there are those in our midst who worry about whether these kids will mess up “our building” and bring up issues of liability (an issue that can’t be easily dismissed. But the greater problem is one of time — folks seem to struggle to keep up with their own lives and their own kids so it seems impossible that they might give up their time to hang out with a group of kids from the neighborhood, especially since (most likely) the likelihood of those kids becoming a major part of our church seems slim.
I too fall into the latter category, for in picking my priorities it’s hard to give up time to sit and be present. I probably should play ball with them, but there is nothing scarier than a fat preacher trying to keep up with a bunch of kids while trying to fight off a heart attack. There are lots of people who want my time, most of whom are deeply connected to our church community, and it’s hard to balance the competing needs.
But I can’t tell the kids no. They are too earnest, too honest, and looking for signs of God’s grace even though they don’t know it.
“Yeah it’s open. Y’all come on in and I’ll bring my computer from my office down to the gym.”
We need to do so much. Our community needs an afterschool program, especially for the latch key middle school kids from the school around the corner. We need to develop a summer camp program, deeply connecting with the kids of this community. The needs are great.
But we are old. We are tired. No one yet has the passion to take this on, and I can’t add it to the plate of overfunctioning that is currently my mode of operation.
All I can do is wait with longing . . . and open the doors.