How Much Social Capital do you have at Church? (by Michelle Van Loon)

How Much Social Capital do you have at Church? (by Michelle Van Loon) October 5, 2015

By Michelle Van Loon:

How do you spend your social capital in your church? Have you ever stopped to take stock of your relationships and influence?

I’ve found few with positional or social authority in a church ever consider what they possess. Instead, we count what we lack. I’ve known pastors who believe they’re outsiders in their own church. I’ve known members of cliques in a congregation who are tone-deaf to the way in which their closed circle excludes others. Too many of us measure our network of relationships at church using the scales of our own insecurities.

We know Jesus saw the way these insecurities affected the behavior of religious people around him, as he told this pointed parable in response. James spoke frankly about favoritism and insider behavior in the church here.

On a long car ride home a couple of days ago, my husband and I spent a little time imagining what it might be like for church leaders and members alike to consider what they may possess in terms of their relationships. Inspired by this exercisedesigned to help students understand the nature of societal privilege, I put together a completely unscientific quiz designed to spark a bit of reflection for those of us in the church, whether we’re in the inner circle or the new kid in the pew. Score yourself accordingly for every “yes” answer below:

1.  Are you the pastor of your church?  (+5 points)

2. Are you the pastor’s spouse? (+3 points)

3. Are you related by blood or marriage to the pastor? (+3 points)

4. Are you a staff member at your church? (+5 points)

5. Are you a ministry leader at your church? (+5 points)

6. Have you been an active member (involved in at least one other ministry besides Sunday morning service attendance) of your church for more than 3 years? (+2 points)

7. Have you attended your current church for less than one year? (-5 points)

8. Do you sense there is a place for your gifts and experience to be used and grown in your church? (+3 points)

9. Do you tithe/donate significant funds to the church? (+3 points)

10. Do you socialize with at least one church leader outside of church functions (for example, spend holidays together, attend family parties or vacation together)? (+5 points)

11. Are you a different race or socioeconomic status than the majority of the church leadership team? (-4 points)

12. Do you have special needs, addicted, or mentally-ill children living in your home? (-4 points)

13. Are you single or divorced? (-5 points)

14. Are you an empty-nester? (-4 points)

15. Have you ever voiced a disagreement with church leaders over doctrine or practice? (-4 points)

16. Are you a celebrity? (+5 points)

Scoring scale:

25 to 33 points = You’re one of the cool kids.

14-24 points = While you appreciate your friendships at church, sometimes the cliques and politics get to you.

4-13 points = You may be a part of the church, but you’re a social outsider.

3 to -18 points = You and your “issues”. You might be a project, or you might be a pariah.

During certain periods of my life, I’ve had some social capital to give away, but have never been a true insider as this scale would measure it. I don’t write these words out of envy (“gosh, I wish I was one of the cool kids”), but because I’m learning that social capital comes with the same spiritual responsibility as does our bank accounts. How do I steward what I’ve been given? Does it reflect the way in which Jesus related to others?

What do you think? What questions would you add or delete from this quiz? If you took it, did your score surprise you?  

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