“We need to work harder on what we’ve always done if we’re to move this congregation forward and bring in the youth.”
“What if we go back to being the kind of church we were 30-40 years ago?”
I’ve heard this statement and question in recent days. The two have stuck with me—churning around somewhere inside. Something in me that says, “Yes, let’s work harder!” Then, there’s also a voice saying, “It’s not going to happen!” That causes the churning. The circular wondering what direction to go—if there really is one direction, rather than many approaches?
It’s tempting to go back nostalgically to the “good old days”. Fond memories surface. Smiles appear on faces. Stories are shared. Then, we compare “those days” with “these days”. Sadness settles in on some of us older folks. We mourn. We grieve. However, those fond memories are not really part of this next generation’s memory. They are their grandparent’s and sometimes parents’ stories. But they’re not our children’s or grandchildren’s memories. Current indications are that they will not be—especially as we recover from the effects and reshaping of the pandemic on church life.
I find the following helpful. Perhaps it might be a refrain that we say any time we begin to talk about church and where we are heading. Say it aloud as you read!
“It’s no longer enough to be the church our grandparents loved. We must become the church our grandchildren will love.”
It makes sense. It helps us frame and re-frame the way we talk and dream about our faith and doubts—and shape our congregation.
Nevertheless, a practical question remains: “How?” In one sense, it’s a mystery; yet in another sense, it’s very pragmatic. We need everyone to participate if we are to discover answers for today. So, let’s push into the mystery, not because we can find hard and fast answers and solve every vexing challenge, but because we come to know God more deeply by facing the unknown honestly and by living up-front with our doubts.
We are a community.
We share the joy and we mourn together. We have memories, but more importantly, we make opportunities and experiences for new and meaningful memories. Together we learn to help each other patiently and wisely articulate a strong Christian voice for our congregation and the community today.
The church we know and love was shaped by many factors—pastors, sure—but it’s you the members who make us the congregation we are: generous, loving, openhearted folks who really believe God shows us the power of love, justice, and truth in the life of Jesus. We will become the church for the day if the following guide us and continue as our strengths:
- commitment to spirited worship,
- strong faith-formation opportunities,
- energy for outreach, and,
- an unequivocal commitment to the barrier-breaking, inclusive love that Jesus showed us in his ministry.
As we enter the summer months your presence in worship, your financial support, and your commitment to bringing and welcoming newcomers—will all keep us strong and vital.
We have a message to share, a church to love, plans to make and commitments to keep, and exciting new opportunities to live into our faith. Thank you for your spirit and witness.
With grace and peace,