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« Practice leading theory, leading the church | Main | A Random Faith »

June 22, 2007

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DennisS

I like it! I don't think it's overly simplistic at all. It's going to lead to some deep thinking and evaluating priorities.

Does this fly into the wisdom of having a pastor for every 150 members (or whatever number folks use)? Is this suggesting that people need more personal attention?

We might have to rethink what it means to minister to people.


The following is just my rambling...

I've found that people are responding when I remember their name, when others make a warm attempt to get to know them, when they get a chance to tell their story, when they are valued for who they are, when they are asked to help, etc.

It seems that so many pastors are tied down with preaching and visiting the sick and participating in Presbytery and its committees or local alliances and the like. Instead, greater time should be spent in visiting and eating with those on the margins, listening and teaching in homes and coffee shops and the like.

Last year we put in place a visitation plan, pairing an Elder and Deacon, to visit a specific part of the membership. Attendance jumped right away. People were reconnected. Unfortunately, the visitation dropped off, and needs to be restarted. I'm quite sure it had a positive effect upon the people.

To me, this is spiritual. Caring and listening, and even being aggressive in courting people for the Church (spending plenty of time with folks, finding their interests, etc) - these can be movements of the Holy Spirit.

(Some think spiritual is when people have beautiful prayers, or spend lots of time in contemplation, fasting, etc. These may be spiritual, but more in a sense of defining who we are so that we may move forward in ministry.)

Each pastor has a limited number of people to whom they are capable of relating. This is where the body of Christ must come in - building strong relationships with one another. Here, we are blessed with people who will bake cookies for newcomers, those who will call folks to see how they are doing, those who seek to find new friends, etc. Because of these people, the life of this expression of the Church is being extended and renewed.

If at any given time, each member is spending time with a dozen people who are non-members, assuming we deeply associate with our membership in the body of Christ, then the Church membership will likely be growing - in quantity and quality.

The 2006 statistics are finally on the PCUSA website. Once again, probably 80% of the congregations only added up to a couple members, before removing a handful of members because of death. I think the leadership of each congregation should have a goal of adding 8-12% to the membership each year. Even if they had a year where they lose nearly 10%, on average the congregation will be growing if 8% (before losses) is added to the membership. What if we settled for adding members at the rate of inflation? This would be better than our current situation.

Yes, membership goals are considered bad taste. But the fact of thinking how 10% could be added just might make leaders think of what is possible.

Membership was 115 when I got here two years ago, and it stands at 114 currently. In 2006 we lost 7 active members to death. We've moved 11 to inactive. A couple have transferred. We've got an adult baptism coming up, a couple just declared this week that they want to join, and there are a couple families and several individuals I'm working with currently with a view toward membership.

Not a single one of the members who have joined in the last two years, nor those I'm currently working with, are new to the area. These are people who have some connection with the congregation (through various ministries or knowing congregants), of which I have sought to get to know them and invite them to attend.

I don't know how to communicate this style to the denomination. We are in a rural context which continues to de-populate. And yet attendance continues to grow, and membership will soon be growing (now that we have cleaned up the rolls and the rate of death goes back to normal). We are approaching 10% annual growth (before losses).

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