(this is kinda an “in-house” post for folks that are a part of our church community, but I don’t have another good place to publish it at the moment)
Last March I began a project of learning about our church by asking three questions. We setup about a dozen small group meeting in your homes over the course of 8 months where I had a wonderful time meeting with about 80% of you. I found myself asking the questions over coffee, on golf courses, in nursing homes and around hospital beds. I asked you for stories about when you felt most excited about our church, I asked you about what you valued the most, and I asked you how you pray for our church.
I thought a lot about the questions, I phrased them in a way where your answers would tell me a lot about our church and how God might be leading you. Your answers did not disappoint. I always came home with an overwhelming amount of stories and valuable information about how God has used you in our history and the sorts of godly people who make up our church family. The more I got to know you, the more thankful I was to be part of a church with such mature, godly, passionate examples of believers. The more I heard about our history, and as I read hundreds of pages as part of our 80th anniversary celebration about courageous leaders and bold members, the bigger sense I had that as a leader and pastor, I was a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants.
But even as I left each of those meetings with gratitude, I felt as though most of you left with expectation and questions for me. “What’s next for us?” – “What can we do to get back on mission?”
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I wrote down almost every major value and story heading that I heard from you. I analyzed it, put it in a graph, I presented it to the Elders in September. Since then, I’ve presented to Council the major categories of what you all said. These are all things that you all as a whole have asked for. These are things that our church has been blessed and gifted in. These are areas where God can use us in powerful ways. These are what I believe the Spirit has guided you all to ask for us to focus on.
Raising Godly Kids and Families – most of you told stories about raising godly kids, working on the Christian School, having a full Sunday school and nursery. This is something God has gifted us at, and we’ve learned a lot.
Living Life Together – almost all of you talked about how our church is a close caring family. I heard LOTs of stories about how we‘ve sacrificially supported and helped each other in really difficult times.
Growing – I didn’t know what to do with this one. I carefully designed my questions to be positive and uplifting. But, almost all of you hijacked it. Seniors, teens – you all had to interrupt my warm fuzzy questions by making sure I knew that our church used to be big and growing, and now it was small and in trouble. (As though you were the first to tell me this… I wrote this as “arg” in my notes.) But I think behind that is something really encouraging. Everyone in our church wants us to grow – to reach out to more people, to make more disciples, to proclaim the glory of God to our community. Few are satisfied with status quo.
So what’s next? – I think we need to focus on Raising Godly Kids and Families, Living Life Together and Growing. We’re already doing all of those things. And we can do better. Our elders are taking a meeting and discussing each of them hoping to set some tangible measurable goals.
I’m writing this because I want to hear from you: What can we do to be better at these.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. I don’t have all the answers, I just barely have the right questions. But I’m optimistic. I’m convinced that God has given us a wonderful history, people and resources to help advance His kingdom in our community at this time. After over a year of listening and thinking and praying, I’m still convinced that our future is brighter than our past. Please pray and dream with me as we seek His will and the resolve to follow where He leads. –
– Pastor Sam