Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

How People Get Ostracized (& How to Stop it!) Part 2 of 6

Sometimes very active people quit coming to church.  What are the causes of that?  In our next conversation with David Ostler, he tells us what people do that ostracize active members.

 

GT:  I think one of the things that I like about your book, I’m trying to say this as diplomatically as possible. It just feels like you “get it.” I know there are a lot of people that have really good, well-meaning hearts, and they want to talk about this idea of disaffection. But they do it in a way where [it’s not effective.] It feels like I’ve got to be careful. I have to censor myself because I might offend that person. It just feels like you are open. There’s an openness that you frankly don’t see at church. I mean, for one thing, I’ve expressed before. In fact, I actually interviewed Kurt [Francom] on my podcast a few months ago, and I expressed some frustration. I don’t consider myself in a faith crisis, but I also can’t speak up at church. It’s not safe. It’s almost just better to go sit in the hall and do your own personal study, because everybody’s all concerned about everybody’s testimony. For me, and like I said, I don’t consider myself in a faith crisis, but I felt the frustration of the people that you talked about in your book. Can you talk about how…? I mean, is there anything we can do?  I feel as Joe member, I can’t talk to my bishop. I just feel like he’ll look at me cross-eyed, and I’ll never get a calling again. Can you address that issue?

David:  I think what you’re talking about is probably a little bit more common than we think. I think that we all want to go to church and look polished, and at our best and the like. We know that we want to be faithful. We know that we want to express confidence in the institutional church and in our own belief, and so sometimes it takes a lot of courage. It can be very vulnerable for us to express any sort of concern we have that might go against that completely faithful narrative. So it’s sometimes very daunting to either raise our hand and say, “Well, I’ve got a concern here,” or to ask a question, “Well, what about this?” And I think sometimes, just because of the nature of our culture, that can be somewhat risky for people.

What I found when I started kind of going down this road, maybe it’s because of my career background, or maybe because of some my own personal experiences, I just wanted to listen to what people were saying. I just wanted to kind of understand from their perspective, how they felt attached to the church, if they were in crisis, what triggered their crisis, how they felt about it, what their concerns were.  I just kind of went down that road without care about my preconceptions, or whether they would say things that would make me uncomfortable, or that I might disagree with personally. So, I really wanted to just truly understand, and I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know. I asked, “Why do you feel that way?” I’d say some things and they’d help me see how, what I was saying wasn’t either on target or wasn’t helpful or showed that I didn’t understand. I had some good friends that would help me see my blind spots on that. So, I’m grateful that you felt like that voice came through in the book.

Check out our conversation….

Sometimes active people quit coming to church. David Ostler explains what makes church culture difficult for people, and things we can do to improve out culture.

Don’t miss our other conversation with David!

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Helping LDS Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

David Ostler is the author of “Bridges:  Ministering to Those Who Question.”  This book is designed for LDS Leaders to better understand a faith crisis, and how to help members in their wards and stakes to better empathize and maintain members who struggle with issues of faith.  David has interviewed several hundred people to better understand their perspective and shares that knowledge with all of us.

David:  When I started studying faith crisis, disaffiliation, my own background is in evidence-based medicine. So, you know, it’s like, what does the data say? It’s the first question we ask. So I spent time trying to understand what we knew about the problem, what people had written, what studies had been done, what data had been collected. Like most problems, we all have impressions about a particular area, but when we go in and study it systematically, sometimes we find those impressions are not entirely accurate. For my own life, that’s been the case often. But certainly with this topic, I found it to be the case. So I wanted to, as I learned about this for myself, and then ultimately, as I wrote the book, to make sure that I had the best information that can be brought on it, and where it wasn’t available to see what I could do to create more information there. So with regards to Leading Saints, and Kurt Francom, we were able to, using the leaders that subscribe to his newsletter, to be able to survey them and understand what local leaders thought about faith crisis, issues of faith, how they were responding and the like. So that’s been kind of a fun thing for me to get to know Kurt and that community a little better.

Check out our conversation…

David Ostler has a new book called “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question

 

And don’t miss our previous conversations with Kurt Francom!

223: Do You Disagree with the Exclusion Policy?

222: Should the Church Modify Bishop’s Interviews?

221: Results of Faith Crisis Research

220: “We’ve Got to Have These Difficult Conversations”

219: Ministering to the Faithful & Faithless

218: Is it Bad to be Called LDS or Mormon?