Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon tell the story in “Resident Aliens” of a young pastor proposing to a church committee the idea of starting a church day care center. He explained in detail why he thought it was a good idea and then a committee member named Gladys spoke up…
“Gladys butted in, “Why is the church in the day care business? How could this be part of the ministry of the church?”
The young pastor patiently went over his reasons again: use of the building, attracting young families, another source of income, the Baptists down the street already have a day care center.
“And besides Gladys,” said Henry Smith, “you know it’s getting harder every day to put food on the table. It’s become a necessity for both husband and wife to have full-time jobs.”
“That’s not true,” said Gladys. “You know it’s not true Henry. It is not hard for anyone in this church, for anyone in this neighborhood to put food on the table. Now there ARE people in this town for whom food on the table is quite a challenge, but I haven’t heard any talk about them. They wouldn’t be using this day care center. They wouldn’t have a way to get their children here. This day care center wouldn’t be for them. If we are talking about ministry to their needs, then I’m in favor of the idea. No, what we’re talking about is ministry to those for whom it has become harder every day to have two cars, a VCR, a place at the lake, or a motor home. That’s why we’re all working hard and leaving our children. I just hate to see the church buy into and encourage that value system. I hate to see the church telling these young couples that somehow their marriage will be better or their family life more fulfilling if they can only get another car, or VCR, or some other piece of junk. Why doesn’t the church be the last place courageous enough to say, “That’s a lie. Things don’t make a marriage or a family.” This day care center will encourage some of the worst aspects of our already warped values.”
The young pastor was tempted to say, “Darn you Gladys, why don’t you let me worry about ethics? I’m the resident ethical expert here!” But what he said was, “Gladys, with questions like the ones you are raising , we just might become a church after all.”