In February, we had the opportunity to learn about being a “missional church” from Ron Carlson, who will be returning to instruct us again during the first weekend of June (June 1-3, mark your calendars now!). Part of the work of Ron’s first visit was to help us see that we are not going to get anywhere worrying about the pews that are empty. Instead, we need to learn how to empower those already here to be grow deeper in faith and more adept at using their gifts.
Right now, we’re doing great for a “small church” (defined as 60 or less), but if we wish to see the church flourish, it will take helping the people already here flourish in their own faith first. Adding ten more, let alone forty more adults every Sunday to these pews will be hard, but not unattainable work, and it will not happen immediately. If there’s any word of advice I try to give to myself, it is this: growth takes time and intention.
A good example of this is in the work of the altar guild, a group that didn’t exist a year ago. Little by little, talk about “sprucing up the church” began to get people who have interest and creativity together to plot out ideas for the church altar. These gifts are being put to use. Openness to try, willingness to risk, joy in experimentation, embracing the new. These were key factors in getting things going, but remember the beauty of it: gifts of people already here were finally able to be cultivated and called forth! God is already at work, bringing you and you and you here to this place. Now it’s time to figure out how to work with our giftedness!
And speaking of gifts, we need people to help us discern wisely our next steps in ministry. The board of trustees is actively taking on the challenge of getting the building more up and running for more community involvement. There will be some conversations about how we talk about stewardship and long-term management of our finances. There will be opportunities for people to get involved in issues around “Children In Poverty” down in Washington, DC, so they can come back and help us get involved in these critical matters.
The Christian education board is asking you to be part of a present day effort to return to “Sunday school” each week for all ages. It is part of our past, but I believe that if we are to have a future, Sunday school and other educational opportunities MUST be part of our present day work. Your time this morning will help educate the congregation about what we are already doing well (Sunday school for ages up to ten) while thinking about how we need to get adult education going, and continue the ministry of “Vacation Bible School” this summer with loads of helpful volunteers tending the children we know already and hopefully a dozen more kids who have never stepped foot in the church.
We are at an unique place in our history right now. Today’s “newcomer” is tomorrow’s active congregant, if we can make a place for them to flourish and use their gifts. We do all of this not to keep an old building alive or a quaint old tradition going. We do it because we give thanks to God, the one who graces us with every gift, with one another, and all through our belief in Christ Jesus. We give thanks for 180 years behind us, all the years ahead of us, and most of all, courage to live faithfully in the present.