From the book Change and Conflict in Your Congregation: Even If You Hate Both by Rev. Anita L. Bradshaw.
With the help of a small team of volunteers, I interviewed sixty members of a congregation, ranging from the most involved to those on the margins. We asked questions about significant spiritual moments, favorite memories, how the church dealt with conflict, and other issues. Analysis of the interview summaries revealed several perspectives functioning within the congregation. Key among them was the congregation’s definition of church. I met with the small group assigned to oversee this re-envisioning and conflict-resolution process and revealed my findings from the interview data.
I wrote the following equation on a white board:
Happy + Nice = Church.
I then sat down and waited for their response. Dumbfounded, they all stared at the equation for a relatively long time, and then someone said, “Shouldn’t God be somewhere in the equation?”
“Exactly,” I responded. “I would have been happy with God or Jesus or even the Holy Spirit, but no one mentioned them.” In the survey, none of the congregants interviewed mentioned church-related experiences in response to the question about significant spiritual moments. No one talked about God in the answer to any question. The key things they wanted from a pastor were that she make them happy and keep the peace. The result was stunning and pointed to several key strategies to address the apparent absence of God from congregational life.