We’re in a transition in our church some 4 years after my arrival as pastor. Our congregation is aging, and younger families have left the church, primarily because we didn’t offer the programs that larger churches in our area offer for children and youth. We recognize that we can survive with the members we have. But, surviving is not our goal. We want to thrive as a congregation. So, here are some things I’ve told our church leadership about how we can move from surviving to thriving.
- Focus on our community, not our church. That means we have to engage the community in various ways. We have made a beginning in doing this, but we have a long way to go. Old patterns still attempt to draw us back in.
- Unite rather than divide. I’m really interested in intergenerational ministry. The biggest success we’ve had in this area is the first year we overhauled Vacation Bible School to include parents and children in the same groups. Everyone had a great time, and parents got to participate with their children. If families are so important to us, why do we keep dividing them up at church?
- Do more, talk less. Churches tend to have too many classes on what to do. We need to spend more time on doing ministry, rather than just talking about it.
- Lower barriers, expand participation. Everyone will not join your church, but lots of folks will help you in specific ministry projects. We collaborate with others on VBS, our senior adult ministry, our community music school, the teen open mic night we help sponsor, and other events.
- Let some things die. We will try to spend more time keeping relationships alive, than in keeping programs alive. Events and programs are not eternal. Some have run their course and need to go.
- Take the long view. We didn’t get where we are overnight. We won’t effect change overnight either. We are not desperate or in a panic, but we are committed. We moving toward our new future deliberately and together, which is a lot slower than any of us might like.