Tag: church strategy

“Summer” for churches is over

Debbie and I have learned a lot about growing vegetables this year.  We learned that mulch under your raised beds acts like a big sponge and makes the beds too wet.  But, we also learned when you remove the mulch and create drainage that the beds return to a productive, healthy state.  We learned not to fertilize beans because you get more vine than beans.
We also learned that plants start to play out as the season progresses.  Tomatoes get smaller, insect attacks increase, and the general quality of the veggies is not as good as the first harvests.  I think we picked the last of the tomatoes last week.  We pulled up some plants a couple of weeks ago, and the rest will go this week.  We also learned that voles like potatoes, especially russets, and that they will chew on as many potatoes as possible, without actually eating a whole one.  We lost most of the russets that way.  But apparently voles don’t like red potatoes because they didn’t eat the Cranberry potatoes.  Or maybe the voles had so many russets to eat they didn’t make it to the red potatoes.  But, either way, we harvested some late red potatoes that are delicious.
The garden looks pretty sad right now.  All the lush cucumber, watermelon, and cantaloupe vines are gone. The sugar snap peas gave out long ago.  The remaining tomato plants are stalky and almost leaf-bare.  The bean vines are drying up, and the compost heap has grown dramatically.  To look at it, you might think that the garden was dead.
But it’s just the end of a season.  We have already received our lettuce and celery seeds, plus we’ll plant more spinach, too.  As you know, these cool weather crops don’t like the July and August heat.  But, this fall, if all goes well, we’ll have fresh salads again.  Plus, the freezer we bought this year is over half full of frozen tomatoes waiting to be made into soup and sauces; frozen apples that we bought locally; frozen blueberries picked in July; some beans from the garden; and, frozen peaches.
My point in all this is that seasons bring changes to gardens and churches.  What works in the garden in the summer doesn’t work in the fall and winter.  Experienced gardeners know that and adapt.  Experienced church leaders do the same.  Our culture is changing, and so must our churches.  Church attendance nationwide has fallen from about 40% of the population to only 17.5% on any Sunday.  “Regular church attendance” is now considered to be 3-out-of-8 Sundays. Older adults are more likely to attend church than younger adults.  And the list of changes goes on.
We can bemoan the fact that it isn’t “summer” for churches anymore.  But, like the garden, that won’t do us much good.  Instead we can figure out what will “grow” in this new environment we find ourselves in.  Like our experience in the garden this summer, we’re still learning.  Some things will work and others will not.  But churches, like gardeners, are optimists.  We believe that next year will be better.

It’s not too late

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 PathThanks.