We had a long and intense discussion in a committee meeting tonight at our church. The subject: how can we reach more families and children? My challenge to the group was to lead the church to make a commitment as a congregation to the “what” — reaching families and children. If we make a commitment to “what” we want to do, we can then all work together to figure out the details of “how” we’re going to reach more families and children. The “what” commitment comes before the “how.” Most of the time we get it backwards. We want to talk “how” before we decide “what.” Then, when our “how” fails, we abandon the “what” along with it. Commit to “what” you want to do — the “how” will follow.
In leading your church, have you ever thought “it’s too late” to start a new class, solve a problem, or try a new church strategy? Or, “we missed our chance?” Or, the best one — “we tried that once and it didn’t work?” Well, let me tell you a story from our garden.
You might remember that we started our vegetable garden early in the spring. We had never planted a vegetable garden before, so this was a new experience for us. We ordered seeds, and sprouted plants in plastic trays behind our couch in March. Over 100 tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and other plants got off to a good start. Next we built our raised bed frames, cleared an area for the garden plot, and fenced it in. We even built a garden gate for our version of “The Garden of Eden.”
The big day came in mid-April as we transferred the seedlings to our raised beds. We transplanted our little “couch” tomatoes to the raised beds, along with some cabbage and cucumbers and broccoli. We also planted beans and some other stuff from seeds. Everything looked great, but unseen problems were ahead. Our raised beds began retaining too much moisture. About three weeks after planting we were growing more mushrooms than vegetables! We realized we needed better drainage for the raised beds, so we scraped out drainage holes from under the beds. The moisture problem was solved — mushrooms disappeared, and the plants put out buds.
But to make sure we had some veggies coming up, we planted more tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, eggplant, and okra in the perimeter around the raised beds. Well, the raised beds recovered and the new plants began to thrive also. As our garden began to grow, we decided we wanted to plant more stuff, just to make sure we had something at harvest time. So, we planted more beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelon. That was June 15th. Plants were flourishing in the Chatham “Garden of Eden.”
Then one day I decided we needed some potatoes. Everybody told me that you plant potatoes in February. It was late June. But I talked to some very nice potato farmers in Maine and they assured me I could plant potatoes in July. And so we did. And while we were at it, we planted more (you guessed it) beans, tomatoes, and celery. We’ll see how it all works out.
My point in all this is — it’s never too late to start something worthwhile. If you wait for the perfect time or conditions you’ll never get anything done. When we encountered the drainage problem in our garden, we could have given up on the raised beds and scrapped the whole garden. We could have told ourselves we didn’t know what we were doing. We could have been discouraged by our mistakes. But instead we planted more stuff. Why? Because we wanted the garden to grow and produce.
Church is just like that. Okay, maybe not just like that, but close. Things don’t always work out like we hope. We make mistakes, circumstances change, and we face unexpected problems. But back up, fix what you can, and start again. I learned that lesson from George Ernst who said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Good advice for churches, too.
For more about our vegetable garden, visit our other blog Eden’s Path. Thanks.