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Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

Six Suggestions for a Great Church Celebration


Yesterday, July 29, our church celebrated the last of “seven sesquicentennial Sunday celebrations.”    Try saying that seven times!  Anyway, we set aside the last Sunday of each month from January through July to commemorate 150 years of ministry and service.  Here are six of the best ideas we used during this celebration:

  1. Invite former pastors.  Rather than only one Sunday for several preachers, we gave each former pastor who could attend (we’ve had 18 pastors in 150 years), a complete Sunday.  On each Sunday, we celebrated the milestones in their ministry at Chatham Baptist Church.
  2. Invite former musicians.  Along with each pastor, we invited the music leaders who served during each pastorate — a reunion of sorts for the worship team during that time. 
  3. Use street banners.  Our town uses banners on Main Street, changing them seasonally.  Our church is located one block off Main Street, and we designed and printed our own street banners.  We got permission to mount them on power poles, and for about $1200 we’re still getting good response to these attractive banners.
  4. Create a memorabilia area.  We took a couple of blank walls and turned them into a photo gallery of members who were baptized, married, or who served in the armed forces.  In addition, we found old journals, ledgers, minutes, letters, photographs, and artifacts from the past that we displayed on tables and memorabilia cabinets.
  5. Honor the past by remembering people.  We remembered past Sunday School teachers, senior adult leaders, choir directors, pastors, deacons, educators, soldiers who served and those who gave their lives, pastors we ordained, local civic leaders, and connections to institutions and individuals down through the years.  A neighbor church, started as a mission by our church in the 1960s, brought their whole congregation and joined us for worship one Sunday. 
  6. Go easy on the commemorative stuff.  We ordered commemorative plates, wooden silhouettes of the church, old-time “funeral home” fans, post-it notes, and Christmas ornaments.  We still have most of these in boxes, waiting for folks to buy them.  People enjoyed the experience, but didn’t necessarily want a “take home” reminder of the event.  That was the one area we over-did, but we’ll use some of the items as newcomers gifts, guest speaker baskets, and for local historic displays.  While the items weren’t an overwhelming success, we’re making the best of our overly enthusiastic purchases. 

The seven Sundays of celebration gave our folks a time to reflect on the past, celebrate our heritage, and think about our future.  Hopefully, we will leave a legacy as strong for the next 150 years for those who come after us.

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Categories: Congregation, Missional Church

3 replies

  1. Good points. We will be celebrating a mere 50 years next year and I was starting to think of ways to do it up right. How did you contact all the former pastors, worship leaders, etc? Was there any cost involved to get them to your event? Did you provide honorariums?

  2. Sorry to be so long replying to your comments, but summer vacation intervened. To answer your questions — we knew where most of the former pastors were, but tracked down the one or two we didn’t and invited them. Same for music folks, which were mostly local choir directors, but some had moved away. We paid their travel (either mileage or airfare) and gave an honorarium to those who participated in worship. Plus, we gave each former pastor and musician a bag of commemorative stuff — a plate, ornament, and woodblock. We also invited local people who had grown up in our church, or who had a connection with our congregation. These were just our guests, and we recognized them in each service. Hope that helps!

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