Vintage Voice: The Conversations I’ve Wanted for a Lifetime
by the Rev. Ken Kroohs
We’re living in a new world. Although things are difficult, opportunities for connection have exploded online. Retirees have different time demands, and making the effort to connect through the internet means we can find new ways to serve.
Recently, I began helping two churches reach out to unchurched people via social media. It’s not work that requires major technical skills. Basically, I write emails in response to questions.
Some of my most satisfying exchanges have been brief. People are obviously seeking Christ, but they’re cautious—even scared. Maybe they had a terrible church experience. What’s exciting is seeing them build the courage to ask important questions.
Not everyone is timid. A mother jumped in full force. Her daughter was leading a Black Lives Matter march in an unwelcoming community. Churches are not doing enough to improve society, she wrote. The Holy Spirit led me to share my own disappointments, and the anger I feel toward many congregations. Having found common ground, we could move into a long, fruitful discussion.
Strange as it seems, these are the conversations I dreamt of having when I was ordained! Throughout my ministry, though, I instead spent more time talking about Episcopal constitution, canons, and bylaws than the spirituality of sacraments. Conversations about God and Christianity, beyond a sermon or Bible study, were infrequent—and with non-members, even rarer.
In just a few months, I’ve reached out to more than 500 new people. Most will never go beyond this casual interaction. But about 75 are now in regular contact with the two churches, and we hope that number will grow. Aren’t connections to 75 potential new church-goers and their families worth your effort? There are churches who think so—and clergy who might welcome your involvement.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
- Make sure your posts are of interest to non-members – Church announcements are unlikely to inspire engagement.
- Take advantage of feedback – Facebook tells you who has liked, commented on, or shared a post. If it’s not someone connected to the church, respond quickly, thank them, and ask questions to start a conversation.
- Don’t get discouraged! Few may respond. When people do, gently build a relationship. Keep a contact list, and be sure to keep the church’s clergy in the loop—at some point, they might want to be involved. Remember, though, the ultimate goal is not to connect people to an institution, but to God.
About the Author
The Rev. Ken Kroohs is a retired three-career priest, working first as a civil engineer, then in city planning, before receiving his Master of Divinity from Duke University, followed by an Anglican year at Virginia Theological Seminary. These careers shaped his understanding of societal behavior patterns. Father Kroohs served two small congregations and was an interim at another. His volunteer retirement ministry is devoted to assisting congregations in reaching out to people seeking a spiritual home. He has three daughters, eight grandchildren, a 90-year-old house, and a wife who loves HGTV. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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