For those of you who missed the webinar, The Strengths of a Small Church, with Brandon O’Brien and me, the video is online now. Tim Avery at BuildingChurchLeaders.com put it up yesterday at their site. The seminar was well-attended with lots of participation in the comments and chat portions of the webinar screen. The webinar ran about an hour, so grab some coffee, get comfy and tune in when it’s convenient.
Kids love VBS and this 45-second video clip proves it! Part of the VBS fun is learning the songs and motions, and getting into the spirit of the theme. You don’t need a lot of high tech stuff, but you do need some enthusiastic leaders, which we’ve got this week. The audio isn’t great, but you’ll get the idea that kids are having fun at Saddle Ridge Ranch this week.
We partner with 4 other churches in our community to do VBS each year. Each church takes a turn leading VBS planning, and hosting the community for VBS week. This year we’re at Chestnut Level Baptist Church for Saddle Ridge Ranch VBS. The other churches participating include our church, Chatham Baptist; Watson Memorial United Methodist Church; Oakland United Methodist Church; and, Chatham Presbyterian Church. Here’s a quick video montage of the sets, rooms, and our first night at Saddle Ridge Ranch.
This was the scene at our church for Favorite Hymn Sunday. We’re meeting in our fellowship hall because there is some sort of electrical problem in our sanctuary. But, we served lemonade and cookies between Sunday School and worship, so everybody was happy. Or maybe they were happy because I didn’t preach this morning. Who knows, but take a look at our small church in action on this hot Sunday morning.
Bruce Feiler, author of the book, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me, talks about his diagnosis with bone cancer, and of his plan to provide his two daughters with a ‘council of dads’ in case he’s not around for them in the future. This is a great story for Father’s Day or any day. Watch it.
Debbie is painting the backdrop and set for our community VBS. This year the theme is “Saddle Ridge Ranch,” which is available at LifeWay stores. We partner with 4 other community churches — a Presbyterian church, two United Methodist churches, and another Baptist church — for VBS each year. All of our churches have about the same attendance, which is under 100 on average, so partnering with other churches helps share the cost, provides lots of adult helpers, and lots of kids for VBS.
Our VBS costs have run a little more than $20 per child in recent years, and we anticipate about 100 children, plus 60-70 workers. Here’s our schedule for the week of June 27 – July 1:
- 5:00 PM: Our bus leaves our parking lot to make the trip to this year’s location at Chestnut Level Baptist Church.
- 5:30 PM: A snack supper is provided for $1 per child, and $2 per adult to help working families get there together.
- 6:00 PM: VBS starts each evening.
- 8:00 PM: VBS ends.
- 8:20 PM: Bus arrives back at our parking lot in Chatham.
We start on Sunday evening to give us time to set up that afternoon. We don’t serve the snack supper on Sunday, but Monday through Thursday nights we feed 80-100 people supper. Each church pays a pro-rated share of the expense of VBS based on the number of children (not adults or workers) each church has enrolled for the week. Usually the host church for that year spends a little more than the other churches, but over 5 years it all balances out. What is your church doing for VBS this year?
Debbie commented today, after looking at all the books on my desk, “Do you know you have 31 books on forgiveness?” Actually, I didn’t but she’s pretty close. I’m working on a writing project about forgiveness. In the process, I am trying to craft a new definition for forgiveness, which is harder than you might think.
I’m interested in a definition of forgiveness that can be applied in pastoral ministry in the local church. In other words, I’m looking for a definition of forgiveness that pastors can share with their members to encourage them to practice “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I am advocating for a new definition of forgiveness that:
- Takes into account the idea of forgiveness as a process;
- Produces an effect that is recognizable, so that a person can determine if they are acting in a forgiving manner;
- Values the broken relationship;
- Is useful both in situations where the offender has asked for forgiveness, and in situations where he has not done so;
- Seeks reconciliation as the final goal of forgiving acts;
- Attends to the psychological and spiritual health of the offended;
- Deals with the problems of memory and emotions in the forgiving process; and,
- Can be practically applied in local church ministry to assist and encourage the forgiving process.
What definition of forgiveness meets all of these criteria, and is clear enough to be helpful to pastors in their local church ministry? Any thoughts? Fire away in the comments. Thanks.
Our church is typical of many established, small town churches. Three years ago, our congregation was made up mostly of older adults. Of course, older adults are the backbone of many congregations. They provide a higher-than-average amount of financial support, they attend with above-average faithfulness, and they love their church.
Our senior adults are wonderful, and they realized that for our church’s future we needed to reach out to younger adults and young families. But the mass mailings we had tried did not produce new visitors. To add to our difficulty, the region in which we live has been in an economic downturn for several years. Few jobs exist for younger adults, and few young families were moving to our area.
But three years ago we started a younger adult Sunday School class with about 5 younger adults. I’m using the term “younger” because age is a relative thing. We needed to reach folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, but we weren’t going to do that all at once. We believed that if we started lowering the age-range, we would eventually reach young families with young children.
Yesterday at our church-wide covered-dish lunch, 12 children were running around the fellowship hall while the adults finished eating and talking. Six of the 12 were preschoolers; 5 are elementary schoolers; and, 1 is a middle schooler. These are our class members’ children. As the sound of giggles and laughter bounced around the room, all of us were glad to see children playing around us, again.
Our class also had a record attendance yesterday with 19 present. A couple of our class members were out, so the number could have been higher. These younger adults have already begun taking leadership positions. One was elected a deacon last year, another takes a turn once a month leading our children’s time during worship, and 6 of the class members are leading our new Family Ministry Team.
Three years ago we started with five. Now there are over 20. Our class with their children now account for 20-30% of our attendance each week.
Starting a new class or small group isn’t glamorous, and it’s not a new idea. But, starting a new class is a strategy that works. I remember years ago Lyle Schaller, author and church consultant, saying “new people need new groups.” If you want to attract new people to your church, start a new class, be patient, practice hospitality, and watch as the group grows and matures. Small groups are still the building blocks of small churches.
I have resisted getting into this because I keep telling myself, “This is not what you do here at Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor.” Normally, I don’t engage in theological discussions, particularly those that are the equivalent of how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. But, today I can’t help myself because some discussion is taking place around the interwebs about “what is the gospel?”
When facing the impossible God might have another idea. After all, God still does the impossible work of changing lives everyday.
Facing The Impossible
An Impossible Mission
Have you ever faced a situation you thought was impossible? One in which there seemed no way out, no solution, no possibility of resolving it positively?
Well, today we have four stories, from both the Old and New Testaments that were all stories of impossible situations. I don’t think I’ve ever preached on four different passages before, or told four stories from three different books of the Bible, but it’s important for us to hear today what happens when we “face the impossible.”
Of course, you remember the old TV series, Mission Impossible. Tom Cruise made several movies by the same name, but I prefer the TV series because it was a little more believable, and a little less high tech than the movie versions.
Each week the show opened with one of the agents, usually Jim Phelps played by Peter Graves, getting the team’s next assignment on a taped message.
The taped message was always the same:
“Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, should you decide to accept it is….” And then the voice on the tape would explain the mission for the IMF, Impossible Mission Force, to undertake.
At the conclusion of the explanation, the voice then said, “This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.” And it did, all to ominous, “spy-sounding” music courtesy of musical director, Lalo Schifrin.
At times, life feels like an impossible mission, and there are four real-life stories I want us to look at this morning.