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Messages From Those Struggling With Church (Part 6 of 6)

What advice would those who struggle with faith give to members of the Church?  David Ostler reads a couple of letters from people struggling, and I think they are really impactful.

David:  Can I read just one more story?

GT:  Sure, absolutely.

David:  So this is a guy named Mike, and I put it at the end of my book. I introduced him in the first chapter, but I put him in the end of the book, because he wrote me a follow up email about six months after I first interviewed him. I told him, I was just about to conclude the book, and when he gave me this, I threw away the conclusion, and rewrote it to include his story. He’s in a faith crisis, unsure whether he’ll stay in the church. It’s hard for him to participate. He feels still alone and isolated, even though he’s been in this particular state for more than two years, I believe. He just gives us advice on what to do. He’s thought about it because he’s felt it.

David:  He said, “When I was in the dark night of the soul, there are a few things that could have really helped me. I needed someone to just listen, and then after listening, let me know and help me really believe that they trusted me and loved me, no matter what conclusion I came to.  I needed someone to show me that it was love that was the strongest and largest cord that bound us together, not our common belief in the church. I needed someone to not only listen but to encourage me to seek answers and say, ‘Great, I don’t know where that journey will take you, and it’s your own journey. but whatever conclusion you come to, I will absolutely respect you, and if you want someone to walk with you for a while on your journey, call me. I’m there for you.’  I needed someone to let me know that they have never experienced what I’m experiencing, so they won’t pass judgment. I needed to feel from people, not just hear words, that they trusted me and viewed me as a worthy, intelligent and spiritually sensitive human being. I needed a different space after sacrament meeting to be nourished spiritually, and if that wasn’t available, I needed an invitation to leave during the rest of the church block to seek spiritual nourishment elsewhere. (I still need this.) I needed someone to ask me, “What would you like to do in the ward that will help you thrive here?” For me that would have been teaching. I love to teach, but I became an unsafe person, and so I haven’t taught since coming out. I used to teach and speak frequently. I also needed someone to listen and then push back a little. I needed someone with whom I could engage in healthy confrontations. This is this faithful place I was talking about, because after resolution of these confrontations, relationships can blossom.”

David also mentions some of the challenges in an international church.  To hear the final segment, sign up for our free newsletter at https://GospelTangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a secret link! Check out our conversation….

David Ostler gives messages from those struggling with faith.

Don’t miss our other conversations with David!

322: Ministering to Mormon & African Polygamists

321: Creating a Better Church Atmosphere

320: 3 Ways to Help People Keep Coming to Church

319: How Active Members Get Ostracized at Church

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

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Creating a More Supportive Church Atmosphere (Part 4 of 6)

There are two types of people who attend the LDS Church: leaders and non-leaders.   No matter whether we are a leader or not, what are some ways to make church better for those struggling with their faith?  David Ostler has some great ideas.

David:  We don’t have to have a leadership role to be able to minister. So some of the things that I think we can do individually on this is that we can learn the issues and find ways to understand what other people are feeling, and then support them as they’re feeling that. So, for example, in a gospel doctrine class, if I’m participating, or if I’m teaching, and a comment comes up that I disagree with, or I think is wrong, or is controversial, I can respond to it in a particular way that is ministering, that reaches them, that says, “I understand. Tell me more about that. I really appreciate you raised that.  That’s a different perspective than what I’ve thought before. Thank you for expressing that.” Then also to be able to find ways to make sure that the class doesn’t jump all over someone.

GT:  Well, that’s what I was just going to say, because you’re going to start getting people, “Well, I bear testimony,” whatever.

David:  It’s a skill, and we have to practice it. There isn’t some magic answer on how to do that. But sometimes we can say things like, “I know some people in the class will disagree with what you’re saying. I appreciate how brave you are to say it anyway.”  I think that helps that person know that you know what’s going on in that class, and you know that they took a risk by asking that.  I think it helps the people that might want to testify away that issue, to understand that there is a person behind the comment, and that they have feelings and that they are struggling with that.

Check out our conversation….

David Ostler tells what lay members and leaders can say to make a more supportive church atmosphere.

Don’t miss our other episodes with David!

320: 3 Ways to Help People Keep Coming to Church

319: How Active Members Get Ostracized at Church

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

 

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3 Ways to Keep People Coming to Church (Part 3 of 6)

Once a person has gone through a faith crisis, what can church leaders do to help?  David Ostler offers 3 suggestions to help leaders create a more comfortable atmosphere at church.

David:  In the second part of the book, I talk about three major principles that I think are important for people to feel, for them to remain affiliated with the church, after they have a faith crisis. I think if leaders understand these three issues, they can find ways to be able to reach out to people and to accommodate them, to help them, to love them, to accept them, all of these kinds of ministerial words that we want to have there. Those three principles are first trust. Individuals need to trust the community that they’re in. They need to trust the leaders.  They need to trust that the engagement with the community will help them and that that community can guide and give them a confident path towards their spiritual goals. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of different ways trust can break down. You can lose trust that the Prophet speaks for God. You can lose trust that the church will authentically represent its history, you can lose trust that the church will be transparent about the way in which it administers its affairs. You can lose trust in someone who’s broken a confidence. You can lose trust that if you say something, there won’t be a penalty for what you say. So trust becomes a big issue. And as I surveyed members that are in a faith crisis, many of them have lost trust in all of those aspects. I can share some of that data with you if you felt like…

GT:  Absolutely! We love data.

David:  Yeah, you and I kind of eat data for a living, don’t we?  So I asked these faith crisis members about trust. This is 320 people who responded that are in a faith crisis. I asked them questions, and one question I asked is, whether they agreed with this statement, “My local leaders can help me with the important decisions in my life.”  Zero percent strongly agreed with that; 9% agreed with that, which 91% have disagreed in one form or another. So, if they’re going to church, and they’re feeling like their local leader cannot help them with the spiritual issues in their lives, then we as a church have failed.  These are largely people that are earnest and wanting to connect to God, and to resolve their spiritual concerns. They’re not enemies of the church. They’re people that just have concerns, and they’re trying to sort them out and understand what they believe.

GT:  Even I would put myself in the 91%, and I go to church.

David: So, here’s another one, “I am comfortable disclosing my current beliefs to my local leaders.” And 3% strongly agreed with that; 22% agreed with that, which means 75% disagreed with that in one way or another. Then it goes even further, “From the outside do you appear as a traditionally believing member of the church?”  Of this faith crisis group that has no trust in their local leaders, 78% said that from the outside they look like a traditionally believing member. So, on the outside, they’re shiny and bright, and they’re wearing all the right clothes, and probably even in serving in the right callings. But underneath, they can’t express the concerns that they have, and that they’re really struggling with. When they call it a faith crisis, that means they’re evaluating whether they remain affiliated with the church. So, those are the kinds of concerns that you get with trust.

Check out our conversation….

David Ostler tells 3 ways to keep people with a faith crisis engaged in church.

Don’t miss out on our other conversations with David!

319: How Active Members Get Ostracized at Church

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis