I reiterate once more. I admit it once more. I am a care bear.
But even I have my limits.
Rewind to a few weeks ago. We have a member of congregation, who is is a de facto single mother (DFSM). Husband works away a lot. She’s lonely, possibly a bit burdened with bringing up a two-year-old child on her own. Probably her German is limited. Ditto (I suspect) her English. I have noticed her several times in the past few months. I have often wondered: is she possibly on Mogadon? She often seems in a bit of a daze.
After there service one day, I hear a conversation a few metres away:
House group member:
Oh yes, we have a house group on Wednesday evenings. You really should come. We are looking at the Book of Acts. We also enjoy fellowship, tea and cookies.
Oh, I will come.
Fast-forward to the following Wednesday. It’s 19:45. Most of the house group members are there.
Let me just interject here. House group is also known as:
- Home group
- Hauskreis (literally: house circle in German)
- Life group
- Bible study
We get settled in for a good meaty session to look at the Book of Acts.
My mobile rings. It is DFSM.
Hey, when is the service?
I tell her it starts in 10 minutes. DFSM cuts the call.
We carry on, ploughing through the passage.
20:20, and it’s DFSM again.
Hey, where is the service? I am at Blahblahstrasse.
We talk her through how to get house group. It is now 20:24. I have had a strenuous
week month. My patience is starting to grow as thin as my hair…
20:30 DFSM arrives.
Her 2-year-old child in tow.
Nobody says a thing. Maybe they have other thoughts, but they keep it zipped. Nobody wants to make a fuss. I bite my lip. I bite my tongue.
Group leader hands DFSM a bible. DFSM seems puzzled. Maybe, kann es sein, she thought she was coming to a service, where should could dump the reason for her Kindergeld onto others. It’s house group, bible study, ma’am. The study of the bible is the MoSCoW must-have part of house group.
Offspring wanders round the flat, picking bric a brac up from our host’s bookcase.
We all politely smile and say how active offspring is. I sit thinking about my day at work and how I was needing to share concerns and prayers. It was not my intention to share babysitting duties.
20:45 Offspring is still screaming, shouting, wandering, climbing, touching and grabbing things.
20:46 Just like the tabloid investigative reporter, I make my excuses and leave, incisor teeth almost digging into tongue.
Bible study disrupted. Offspring’s sleep pattern disturbed. My blood pressure sky-high. DFSM was content just to sit on the sofa and stare into space. House group/bible study is meant to be participatory, not passive. Not dump-your-kid on-“volunteers”-time.
Am I being too harsh? Too un-Christian? I checked with two friends of mine. Even Billy agreed it was not appropriate to bring a 2-year-old to bible study at that time of evening. Normally he will disagree with me on everything. B in Oz, a mother of a 2-year-old, also agreed with me. She said a child of that age should be in bed very latest at 8pm.
If you can’t achieve your aims at bible study (namely to, er study the bible), is there any point in coming? The evening becomes not fit for purpose. A Rolls-Royce is a nice luxury car, but it’s not suitable for ploughing a field, like a tractor would be.
Clearly, we do want to help struggling members of congregation, but not at all costs. Would it therefore be more appropriate for members of congregation to invite DFSM out for a Kaffee und Kuchen one-to-one or to a women’s prayer group that meets daytime? Can we create a win-win situation for all concerned? Rant over.
Have a care-bearing day, won’t you!