Dying a Slow Death

One of my fondest memories of growing up in a WA Baptist church c. 1970-80 were the ‘City – Country’ exchanges, where a bunch of folks from a country youth group came to be billeted out with a city church for a weekend. There were combined fun activities, a big youth gathering on the Saturday evening and then some involvement in local churches on Sunday mornings. It was great fun and worked both ways – the country folks came to the city and the city folks then went back down there.

I remember vividly some games that were organised on the South Perth foreshore descending into utter chaos when the farmers from Woodanilling took off in their utes to get a trayload of tomatoes and then returned and started pelting them at city kids. It was pretty funny! I remember when we hit the country being taken bunny bashing in the back of a ute. Yeah wacking actual rabbits with a stick and driving around farms without seatbelts while standing in the tray of a ute… I don’t think anyone actually caught a rabbit, but that we did it told a story.

Try taking a bunch of kids bunny bashing now… or shooting…or… (insert potentially risky activity)

How did we ever survive our youth?

This was the year I almost resigned from being a pastor of a local church because of the level of administrivia that now assaults us daily. It has been a year of dealing with constitutions, incorporated status, risk assessments and all the rules that churches now have to abide by. It has felt like we have been dragged through mud backwards and I know its not over.

I guess as a ‘senior pastor’ I should be across this stuff, but I’m not. And it disturbs me so much that every time I think about it I want to ask ‘how did we ever get by this long as a church?’

Did Jesus write a risk management assessment for being one of his disciples? And if he had would anyone have insured him?

I understand the context we live in. I really do… Politically correct, litigious and insurance claim driven, but I feel like more and more we are organising and legislating the fun out of life – or making it so hard to actually have fun that we all give up and watch Netflix.

Depending on your personality type you are either ‘tutt tutting’ and wanting to say ‘Andrew there are very good reasons why we need you to fill in these forms’, or you are sighing along with me and wondering what happened to ‘just having a good time’.

I want us to be safe from sex predators and dangerous people. I don’t want us to do really dumb stuff. But neither do I want to make it so hard to do simple things that we all refuse to engage or alternatively we make it so hard to participate that no one can be bothered.

It was a few years back that we decided to have church at the local park rather than where we normally meet at the school. It was all go until someone (we don’t know who) rang the council and told them. Then I got a phone call informing me we can’t just ‘show up in a park’… seriously?… What are parks actually for?

We needed to fill in this form and apply for permission, complete a risk assessment, pay a fee and bend over backwards just to hang out for an hour at our local park. We cancelled that event and met at the school and ever since we have not run church events of this kind. We just cancel church for the morning and make mention that some of us may spend the morning at the park/beach/wherever… Might see you there. Its just easier that way.

So maybe one day I will wake up and tune into the importance of the bureaucratic processes that currently take me to the brink of resignation. Or maybe – more likely – we will continue to operate on the principle of common sense, and accept that risk is part of life. We won’t be driven by potential insurance claims and we won’t be hamstrung by paperwork.

So – feel free to tell me ‘why we need all this stuff’. But just understand that for many – like me – there is a very strong temptation just to drop out of the ‘system’ and operate autonomously, accepting that to live is to risk.

9 thoughts on “Dying a Slow Death

  1. Just do it! Or find another group who are a lot happier to do all this than you are mate, become a basic franchise and then just do it.

  2. I feel your pain Hamo. I remember those heady days at a Baptist Church with youth group exchanges and events like the annual car rally and church picnics. Geraldton, Cranbrook, Gnowangerup, and other places where we experienced adventure on a different level. Sadly, gone are the days of organising anything in a public place without the local shire giving permission. I’m with you buddy. Just letting some people know you’ll be there with your family and seeing who turns up. Surely we are still allowed check to take picnics and games and sporting stuff to parks for a bit of fun. Whoa is me, as we mirror the USA and become another Land of Litigation and Legal Red Tape.

  3. I share your sentiments. I am still contemplating placing a sign over our church’s door which reads. “This is not a safe place. It’s filled with sinners and would be sinners. Moreover, God is at work, and that is even riskier than the presence of sinners. You may end up in Afganistan.”

  4. I am with you on this Hamo and wouldn’t even dare to mention some of our youth outings and camps activities of the past for fear of retrospective consequences. Neither should I mention school tours to Karajini and peering over Dales Gorge or climbing Joffre Falls and camping in the outback with snakes and dingoes. Amazingly though many of those kids who are now adults thank me for the fun experiences. Our worst injury was a broken leg from jumping out of a tree and she survived.

  5. Hmmmm – I feel anxiety just reading it…I feel this in my workplace, having just sold all our canoes and tents…kids drown in canoes and die when trees all on tents…too risky!! But as far as church…we are just friends hanging out 😁

  6. Thanks for sharing your, my, frustrations!!
    It is just Australia mate …. living in Asia for a bit, we did all the crazy things without all the official approval etc. even took pics of kids having fun without asking their parents permission!!
    Was shocked at the hurdles you have to jump just to get things done here. It has to change …

  7. Going through this right now.
    I don’t know how smaller churches are going to survive going into the future.
    It is getting harder and harder….just to do normal services.
    The litigation, the RC, everything.

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