Learning to be the church from Weight Watchers

Regular comment writer on this blog Betsy has some wonderful insight about what fosters transformation in people:

It is entirely possible to create an atmosphere of transformation in which each person is on their individual journey and also create an atmosphere of trust where it is OK to talk about failures and successes.

One of the things that has most affected my view of church has been my encounter with Weight Watchers. I was a rank and file member, lost 70 pounds, went through leader training and am now currently a rank and file member going after it “one more time” because the initial transformation wasn’t deep enough. I’ve changed some aspects of my life in regards to eating, but others are going to take a “little more work”. It is easy to lose the weight–keeping it off and not falling back into relying on food as “my drug of choice” is the hard part. It is easy to confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but to follow Him into a transformed life is another matter.

Weight Watchers provides tools and fellowship on the journey; everyone has something to contribute to the group’s “knowledge”–I equate that with spiritual gifts. One of the mantras/creeds is “There are no failures, only learning experiences. Examine any failure to learn from it, then let it go, turn the page and start again. Dwelling on it only results in more failure.” A spot is provided for transformation one person at a time and each person is on their own unique journey, dealing with their own unique set of bagage–ultimatiely, the whole world could be transformed . And it is very much OK to “mess up” and have to come back and take another shot at it. It takes more than once to “get it right” and the journey never truly ends–my amazing leader testifies to that. This jives with Morgan’s comment above: “why I’ve been saved at least three different times. I couldn’t tell you today which time was when I really got it, and it seems ridiculous to try to do so.” Based on my experience with Weight Watchers, in any journey of transformation there will be multiple times of “feelings of justification and sanctification”.

Probably the worst thing that happened within the Methodist Church was when a person’s spiritual life became a private/personal matter–there can be no transformation without owning up to “I need help”/”I obviously don’t have all the answers”. I can’t describe how hard it was for me to walk into that very first WW meeting which was tantamount to making a confession of “I have messed up and I need help.” And it was hard to go back for round two and own up that I didn’t get it right the first time. And how hard it is to go weigh in when I know things did not “go well”. But in that setting, it is all OK–it is what they want you to do. By weighing in following a disappointing week, I can not ignore the fact that things did not go as well as I would have liked–there is more work to be done and it is my responsibility to work on it. The current itteration of the WW program involves forcing members to take ownership and responsibility for their own jouney; they have learned “spoon feeding” is not as successful. One of my biggest realizations in taking the Disciple 1 Bible Study was how often “action” was required on the part of the individual in their spiritual journey–I now circle “action verbs”–particularly in Paul’s writings.

I have found myself comparing my experience at Weight Watchers to what I have encountered at church. Weight Watchers wins hands down. Every church leader needs to go through WW Leader training! Having a good leader/mentor/role model that believes in what they are teaching and practices it 7 days a week is crucial. It is the reason for my “success” at WW; it is what has spurred my recent spiritual growth resulting in feeling saved for the first time in my church-going life at the age of 58; but I also took the initiative and went “looking/seeking/expecting God’s grace.”

2 thoughts on “Learning to be the church from Weight Watchers

  1. Wow! I came back to put an addendum–thank you! What I wanted to add was that in any Weight Watcher’s meeting, there are any number of stages of the journey represented: just started, struggling, having amazing success, back for round two or more, took it off and kept it off and am still coming to meetings.

    And one other thing: yes, I have to financially contribute to keep the program going; but I don’t mind because I know I will benefit from being there. I also know the employees don’t make a boat load of money–they do it because they beleive in the mission.

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